Hickey Freeman is planning a double-whammy for fall.
This story first appeared in the January 15, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The venerable men’s wear label will introduce two additional product categories — sportswear and a younger-skewed collection — designed to complement its core tailored clothing offering.
The younger line will be called h by Hickey Freeman and is being designed and marketed by Hickey Freeman Tailored Clothing under the direction of Arnold Brant Silverstone, president and chief creative officer.
At the same time, Authentic Brands Group and W Diamond Group are relaunching Hickey Freeman Sportswear and tapped designer David Hart as creative director.
In 2013, Grano Retail Holdings bought all the tangible assets of the Hickey Freeman brand — including its factory in Rochester, N.Y. — from W Diamond, and signed a 40-year license with Authentic Brands, which purchased the Hickey Freeman trademark as part of its 2012 acquisition of HMX Group, to produce the brand. W Diamond is Authentic’s licensed partner for Hickey Freeman Sportswear.
While the ownership may seem confusing to the outside world, Jarrod Weber, vice president of men’s fashion for Authentic Brands, said: “The experience to the consumer is seamless. We have a team of partners that work together under the direction of ABG (the owners of the brand) who collectively create the vision and execute to the very high standards we set.”
The vast bulk of Hickey’s business continues to be tailored clothing, and Silverstone said bookings for the spring season — its first foray back into the market since the ownership change — were up 29 percent. In addition to a design overhaul, Grano also invested millions into revamping the branding and marketing of the long-standing label. Hickey does more than $100 million in sales at retail.
Silverstone said the idea for h by Hickey Freeman came from retailers asking for a quality product at more affordable price points to appeal to a younger customer. In the past, Hickey Freeman had offered Hickey to appeal to the younger customer, but that product has been discontinued.
“It wasn’t my intention to launch another label within six months of Hickey Freeman,” Silverstone said. “But we saw a hole out there, and if we didn’t fill it, someone else would have.”
Silverstone characterized h as “young and cool but understandable. Everything out there now is either an extreme fit, the quality is terrible or it’s incredibly expensive.”
H is targeted at the 25-to-45-year-old, with the “sweet spot” of 25 to 35. The majority of the offering is separates, but suits are also offered and they’re all made in America at the brand’s Rochester factory. A smattering of sportswear pieces and furnishings are also being produced and made-to-measure will also be offered. Shirts will be made in Newark, N.J., and the ties — all 2 3/4 inches wide — in Brooklyn. Denim will be sourced from Cone in North Carolina and outerwear will either be produced in Rochester or Manhattan.
Suits, which are half canvas, will retail for $895, and there are around 125 swatches available for the clothing. A Hickey Freeman suit is full canvas and would retail around $1,500. Even so, Silverstone said there’s more than four hours of handwork in each garment.
The logo is a modified Gothic “h” and the rest of the label reads: American tailoring, established 1899. One version has a needle running through it. The label is chocolate leather with metal ends.
“It’s a balance of rawness and finesse,” said Negi Darsses, vice president of marketing and communications. “We did focus groups and found there’s a lot of awareness of the Hickey Freeman name.” Young men liked the brand’s authenticity and heritage.
There will be three distinct stories for the launch season, all named after neighborhoods or locations in Brooklyn, which is the inspiration for the collection. The first is Brooklyn Navy Yard, which will be the more basic offering. Silverstone said that while blue blazers and charcoal and navy suits will be part of the mix, there will be youthful twists such as camouflage linings.
The second, Red Hook, is targeted to a “waspy, New England guy,” he said, with a lot of grays, chocolates, tans and camels. The final offering is Greenpoint, which is “more aggressive” in its silhouette and styling. “It’s edgy,” he said, pointing to the printed double-face blazers, boiled wools and washed fabrics.
Key pieces include a plaid peacoat with a quilted lining and a navy flannel shawl-collar tuxedo with a light blue paisley lining.
H will be shown starting this week in the company’s 57th Street showroom, and Silverstone said the plan is to target around “50 new cool boutiques” as well as the label’s existing retail base.
The David Hart-designed Hickey Freeman Sportswear will make its debut next week at Liberty Fairs in New York and will also be shown during New York Men’s Day, a compilation of presentations spearheaded by Erin Hawker, owner and founder of Agentry PR, during New York Fashion Week next month. Hawker has been brought on board to handle publicity for the Hickey sportswear.
Hart launched his own eponymous label with ties in 2009 and branched into sportswear in 2013. His background includes Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Anna Sui.
For Hickey, Hart has created a collection of luxurious casualwear pieces that encompass sweaters, knitwear, sport shirts, outerwear, soft coats, casual trousers and denim. Fits are modern but not skinny. “The Hickey guy is more sartorial,” Hart said.
“Hickey Freeman Sportswear is age-relevant, luxurious American sportswear with a point of view,” said Doug Williams, chief executive officer of W Diamond. It’s targeted to the guy who may be a “king of industry” on Wall Street during the week but needs something to wear on the weekends in Litchfield County. “We wanted to capture the spirit of that man and fill another part of his lifestyle.”
Williams said he was familiar with Hart’s work and “his point of view was exactly what we wanted to accomplish.”
He also tapped apparel industry veteran Marty Staff, now president of branded development for the Siskind Group, to work on the development of the sportswear collection. “Marty’s role is to shepherd the business with the best specialty stores in America and build an American point of view,” Williams said.
“We’re making a 110-year-old brand relevant again,” Staff said.
This is the first such collaboration for Hart, whose grandfather and father were fans of Hickey Freeman. He called the brand “an icon in men’s wear” and said he is honored to “add to its rich history.”
For his first collection, Hart said he “looked at photos of the early days of aviation.” During a preview at the Hickey Freeman store on Tuesday, Hart pointed to the “great military details” that he used in the line. For example, there’s a slub twill M65 field jacket that he showed over a rag yarn popover and featherwale corduroy pants. Fisherman’s sweaters and donegal puffer vests in flecked wool illustrate Hart’s love of “texture.” He’s also offering a lightweight waxed canvas macintosh coat in a mustard color and sweaters in hues ranging from bright orange to oxblood. There are calfskin leather bombers, cotton slub henleys, washed five-pocket stretch twill pants.
“We’re focusing on luxe fabrics, where we see white space,” Hart said, adding that he views the collection as the “American version of Cucinelli or Isaia.” Sizing will be small, medium and large.
The collection, which Hart said is a tight capsule, is manufactured in Europe. Williams said the relationship with Hart will be “ongoing” as W Diamond works to expand the brand’s reach. “We’re partnering with great people to develop amazing product and deliver to the consumer what they can’t find anywhere else.”
Prices are consistent with the other Hickey Freeman product. The leather bomber will sell for around $1,400; wovens will be $175 to $195; and a Cowichan sweater will sell for $1,000.
Williams said he hopes to open 50 retail accounts in the first season and double that by the end of the first year. “Ultimately, we’d like to have 250 locations in the U.S. and Canada,” he said.