NEW YORK — This year marks the 120th anniversary of Hickey Freeman and the brand is creating a special capsule collection for fall to commemorate the milestone.
The brand, which is owned by Authentic Brands Group and licensed to Grano Retail Investments, will celebrate the anniversary in September.
Hickey was founded by two young entrepreneurs, Jacob Freeman and Jeremiah Hickey, in Rochester, N.Y., who manufactured suits for men and boys. Over the years, the brand has survived many ownership changes but its reputation as a purveyor of high-quality, American-made men’s wear continues to this day.
Most recently, Hickey has seen its chief creative director shift from Arnold Silverstone to Aliya Morehead, who has been elevated to vice president of design and merchandising. Morehead, a Greensboro, N.C.-native who had worked hand-in-hand with Silverstone for the past five years, has a rich men’s wear background that also includes six years with Joseph Abboud.
Silverstone has transitioned to work more closely with Grano’s other tailored clothing brand, Samuelsohn.
In a presentation at Hickey’s Madison Avenue showroom, Morehead said that in preparing for the 120th anniversary, she started to research men’s wear from the Twenties. “We did a little vintage shopping,” she said, adding that the Twenties “were a great era for men’s tailoring and for Hickey Freeman.” At that time, the brand was selling at Selfridges in London and was considered the “height of men’s wear in America.”
What their research uncovered was a wealth of vintage patterns and materials that have been maintained in vaults at Hickey’s manufacturing facility in Rochester. “It was a great reflective moment,” she said, “and showed the evolution of the brand. And we were inspired by looking at the past.”
One key piece that she uncovered was the sport suit, a three-piece plaid model with jodhpur pants that was intended to be worn for sporting pursuits.
Morehead explained: “The Twenties were the first time that sportswear and tailored clothing came together and it was driven by sporting events. And we’re seeing that exact same thing happening today.”
So for the 120th anniversary capsule collection, the brand created around 15 suits and 20 sport coats from lightweight Carlo Barbera fabrics “whose patterns and colors are reminiscent of the Twenties that we interpreted in a modern way,” she said. A special logo calling out the anniversary will be included on every piece.
In terms of color, Morehead took some risks, offering purples and pinks infused into more-classic patterns such as plaid or wool. There is also a blue/green and a rust/brown grouping.
To complement the clothing, ABG turned to the Levy Group to serve as Hickey’s new sportswear licensee. Simone Eisold, executive vice president of design for Levy, created a comprehensive assortment of sport shirts, slacks, knitwear and outerwear that mirrors the inspiration of the tailored clothing and supports the anniversary. That includes two sweaters in the Carlo Barbera fabrics for the capsule collection.
Suits will continue to retail from $1,595 to $2,195; jackets from $1,095 to $1,895; pants from $325 to $500, and outerwear from $1,495 to $5,000. Morehead said, while sales of nested suits have been on the decline, the brand has seen strong results from high-end sport coats “that feel like American luxury.”
Morehead said in her new role, she plans to continue to champion the Made in America message on which Hickey’s history is based. “Americans have good taste and great product,” she said, “and that’s something we’re going to be investing in for the future.”
Negi Darsses, senior vice president of marketing and communication for Hickey, said, while plans are still being formulated for marketing the 120th anniversary, the milestone will be celebrated on all of the brand’s social media platforms, in stores and online. A video highlighting the “artistry and expertise” of the Rochester factory is part of the plan, along with a possible exhibit of archival merchandise later in the year.