After a two-year hiatus, Palm Beach is back.
This story first appeared in the July 21, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The venerable label, founded in the early 1900s, has been re-created by its owners, HMX Group, and is being relaunched for spring.
“When I first looked at the company, I thought it was an untapped, amazing brand,” said Joseph Abboud, HMX’s creative director. “It says everything about the resort, summer lifestyle. But in the last 20 or 30 years, it had become just another label.”
Abboud said Palm Beach created a lightweight wool summer suit wrapped in rayon in 1914, and the line then expanded into linen, seersucker and khakis — “great seasonal looks.”
But, according to HMX’s chief executive officer, Doug Williams, the brand lost its DNA under the company’s prior management and was positioned as a moderate suit label primarily targeted to the big and tall market. “It was one of the jewels that we have that had gotten dusty, tired and abused,” he said. “So we closed it down for a while. A lot of retailers were angry about that, but we saw it as a bigger opportunity. We had a vision to bring it back as a luxury collection.”
Under Abboud’s direction, Palm Beach’s new collection has been positioned as a high-end seasonal summer suit collection. It is being manufactured in America in HMX’s factories and features canvas construction, a soft, washed color palette and sophisticated, contemporary styling. Jackets have peak lapels, side vents and ticket pockets. The drop is six-and-a-half to seven inches and the silhouette is “lean and very modern,” Abboud said. Jackets are quarter-lined and relaxed.
“It’s all about attitude,” Abboud said. “Nobody needs another dumb seersucker suit.” Jackets will retail for $695, suits for $995, and there will be woven shirts in linens and cottons to complement the clothing.
The first major retailer to sign on is Neiman Marcus, which has agreed to launch the line in 24 doors for spring, Williams said. The collection will also be targeted to select high-end specialty stores that can “bring back the integrity of the brand,” Abboud said.
Williams said future opportunities include expanding Palm Beach into sportswear. “Our competitive advantage with our factories is that we can come up with new fabrics and silhouettes and execute them very quickly,” he said.
HMX is majority owned by S. Kumars Nationwide Ltd. (SKNL), a publicly held Indian company, which bought the assets of the former Hartmarx Corp. out of bankruptcy in 2009. Since that time, the company has revamped and elevated its company-owned labels, including Hickey Freeman, Hart Schaffner Marx, Coppley and Bobby Jones.