With roughly $300 billion in sales predicted for 2014, the fashion industry is a big business dominated by big businesses looking to become even bigger. When smaller houses are gobbled up by conglomerates, their connection to their craft and product is often treated as an asset rather than a legacy. But, for family-owned businesses, that sense of connection with the product and the customer is so deeply personal it becomes almost sacred. Compromising on the creation of shirts, blankets, glasses, jackets, bags, or shoes is one thing if you're in the apparel business and something else entirely if you're part of a longstanding tradition.
We talked to two generations of America's six most prosperous family-owned style companies about where their companies came from, where their companies are going, and the most memorable product they make.
Since he joined sister Kelly at the helm of Hamilton in 2003, David Hamilton's goal has been to reach the next generation of Hamilton shoppers without compromising the company's roots. "At that time, the business was successful, but in terms of growth it was very steady," says David. "We've expanded our product line. We used to only make custom dress shirts and we now offer shirts in standard sizes and a contemporary line." The strategy has worked. Despite a brief dip following the financial crisis, trends have been moving up and to the right, meaning the fourth generation of the Hamilton family to embrace the shirting business will likely pass down a healthy brand to the fifth generation.