Mel Schott, who created a successful business centered around his father’s leather motorcycle jacket, has died at the age of 94. He passed away last week at JFK Memorial Hospital in Atlantis, Fla., from pneumonia after a 20-plus year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a spokesperson from Schott NYC, the brand operated by the fourth generation of the founding family.
Melvin Schott was born in Brooklyn and grew up working with his father Irving at the company’s Lower East Side store and factory creating modern-day motorcycle jackets and selling them door to door. He took a break from the business by enlisting in the Marines during World War II where he was wounded during the Iwo Jima conflict in February of 1945 and subsequently awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
After returning home, he sold the Perfecto motorcycle jacket, with its asymmetric, belted silhouette, through motorcycle parts catalogue distributors and Harley-Davidson dealerships. In 1953, Marlon Brando wore one of the jackets in the film, ”The Wild One,” putting the jacket on the map. In the Sixties, the collection was expanded to sportswear retailers, Army surplus stores and uniformed police forces in the U.S. and was also distributed in Europe and Japan. Over the years, Schott’s jackets have also been worn by James Dean, The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lady Gaga, according to the company.
By the Eighties, the company had grown large enough to open a 250,000-square-foot factory employing 500 people in Perth Amboy, N.J. Mel Schott served as president from 1986 to 1994 when he was succeeded by his son, Michael Schott, who served in the top spot from 1995 until his death in 1997. Mel Schott’s daughter Roslyn Schott then assumed the president’s role, and runs the business with her brother-in-law Steven Colin, who serves as chief executive officer. Today, Mel Schott’s grandsons Jason Schott, chief operating officer, and David Colin, vice president, are also active in the business, marking the fourth generation of family ownership.
Mel Schott is survived by his wife Leila Schott; his daughters Roslyn and Barbara; his daughter-in-law Susan Schott, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.