It was 110 years ago when Joseph Haspel Sr. created a suit out of an unusual puckered Indian fabric called seersucker that could hold up to the New Orleans heat and still look good.
Fast forward to today, and Laurie Haspel Aronson, the great granddaughter of Haspel and chief executive officer of the family-owned business, is celebrating that milestone with a special vintage capsule collection, a retail partnership and a number of parties and pop-ups that kick off for spring and will continue throughout the year.
“We’re bringing the roots back to New Orleans,” said Aronson, who is headquartered in nearby Baton Rouge, La. “It’s in our DNA and part of our brand strategy.”
To that point, Haspel has partnered with Rubensteins, the venerable men’s store in New Orleans, to sell the entire spring collection in its Canal Street store. In 2017, Haspel moved from a wholesale model to direct-to-consumer. Rubensteins is its only retail account.
This past weekend, the two companies teamed for a two-day trunk show to celebrate the start of the festival season in New Orleans with an event benefiting the Jewish Children’s Regional Service. In addition, Haspel will be a sponsor of the French Quarter Festival, a Louisiana-skewed music event, which will be held April 11 to 14.
David Rubenstein, owner of Rubensteins, said Haspel has been a consistent seller for the store. “It’s a New Orleans thing,” he said, “and kind of an institution. We sell mostly seersucker and some cords and a blue seersucker tuxedo that did well last summer.” He added that the store “had a nice response” to the event over the weekend. “We sold mostly seersucker and people enjoyed it.”
To celebrate another Southern institution, the Kentucky Derby in May, Haspel is working Walk-On’s Bistreaux, a Louisiana-based sports bar, for a spring derby party named “Walk On The Lawn with Haspel” in Baton Rouge on May 4. Haspel will also host a dinner in New Orleans that night for media and customers that will be open to the public.
But perhaps the most ambitious anniversary project is the creation of the capsule. Only 110 pieces will be produced and each garment will be numbered and feature a special label. The Archival Collection will launch on National Seersucker Day on June 13 and will be sold on the brand’s web site. The collection will retail for $695 for nested suits and $125 for woven shirts.
“We’ve always wanted to do something aligned with our vintage seersucker,” Aronson said. The inspiration for the fabrics was drawn from the brand’s archives. The fabrics, which are being produced in Italy, will center around tea-stained brown, olive green and blues with cream stripes that are more muted than the standard blue-and-white seersucker.
Haspel has undergone a number of ownership changes and iterations over the years. It was operating under a licensing model and was reacquired by the family in the Nineties. The brand was relaunched in 2014.
Aronson declined to discuss the brand’s performance but said that it “took five years to figure out what we wanted to do” in terms of distribution, design and messaging. And converting to a direct-to-consumer model two years ago allows the brand to better control its message. “We wanted one place for everything Haspel,” she said. “It’s all about texture and color and occasion dressing and we’ve accomplished that on our web site.”
In addition to the Archival Collection, the company is also planning to offer a full formalwear collection for fall featuring tartan and velvet dinner jackets and a white dinner jacket.