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.
At Houston's Hamilton Shirt Company, retaining institutional knowledge is all about listening to dad. "The biggest lesson my father taught me, which I try to tell David and Kelly, is to make sure that you understand and you can basically perform all the duties in the shirt company," says former owner Jim Hamilton, whose children now run the business, which has been in operation since Jim's grandparents found it in 1883. Because his father took ill before he was able to teach Jim everything about the family business, Jim has made teaching his children a priority.