One of the Hickey Freeman fall ads.


Hickey Freeman was searching for a way to make a difference. And the upscale men’s brand has found it — veterans.

On Thursday, the brand will host a Heroes & Leaders event to celebrate America’s veterans and kick off its fall marketing campaign that will highlight those who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

But Stephen Granovsky, chief executive officer of Hickey Freeman, said the initiative is more than just an ad campaign and a party.

“This began as a marketing discussion with CAA,” he said. “We were looking for a cause that was greater than our brand. The old days of celebrity endorsements and traditional media have gone by the wayside. So we were searching for a creative option to bring our brand to life. We’re very good at creating product, but to reach the wider public in this digital age is very challenging.”

CAA, the creative marketing agency that recently created a Social Impact division to help companies find causes to support, suggested veterans. Once Granovsky did his homework, he became convinced that this was a cause that could benefit both those who served their country as well as Hickey Freeman.

He said the initiative started internally and will now be used externally through the use of the advertising campaign, which is intended to support the veterans as they seek employment and re-emergence into society.

In July, the company donated some 400 suits created in its factory in Rochester, N.Y., to the Veterans Outreach Center in that city for veterans to use in their job search.

The goal of the campaign, which was photographed by Raen Badua, who served six years in the U.S. Army as an automated logistics specialist, is to create awareness of the skills and character that service men and women develop that will make them successful in the private sector. It features veterans from a variety of lifestyles and professions and tells their stories in still photos and videos. These include Wes Moore, author and ceo of The Robin Hood Foundation; Jake Wood, founder of Team Rubicon; Joe Cardona of the New England Patriots, who is also in the Navy Reserves; Sunny Li, an investment banker with Citibank, as well as several Hickey Freeman employees.

Granovsky said the campaign will make it clear that veterans can truly be leaders, a message he hopes will resonate with the public, especially young people who are searching for meaning in their lives instead of just product.

He said the campaign will be ongoing and will not end with the fall season. “This is going to be long-term. It really has transformed us.”

Granovsky’s company Grano Retail Investments bought the assets of the Hickey Freeman brand in 2013 and signed a 40-year license with Authentic Brands Group, which owns the brand, to produce it.

Granovsky said Hickey’s core business has “not only stabilized, but is growing” at its core department stores such as Nordstrom and Dillard’s as well as upscale specialty stores. “We’re happy with the performance,” he said, noting that the brand’s made-to-measure initiatives have been especially strong, rising nearly double digits in the spring. But he said the challenges remain in finding new channels of distribution for the mainly tailored clothing brand.

“In this environment, retailers are chasing the online money and they’re not doing it with tailored clothing. So we’re grappling with how to get significantly bigger.” He’s hopeful H by Hickey Freeman, a line targeted to a younger customer, will help boost sales “because slow growth in our core product is not good enough,” he said.

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