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.
"We continually try to reinvent what we're doing for today's world and push our company forward," says E.K. MacColl, Mort's nephew and Pendleton's Men's Sales Manager. From his position, E.K. has championed the idea of doubling down on wool, a fabric particularly well suited to modern mens' needs. "It's a natural fiber, naturally odor resistant, and it keeps you warm," he says. What's changed? The feel, E.K. says. Pendleton is able to make softer wool fabric than ever before.