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.
The shoes may have an old New England sensibility, but Rancourt is hardly an old-fashioned operation. "In the old days, you could take out an ad in a magazine or open a store, and that's how you were going to sell your shoes," says Kyle Rancourt, who co-founded the company with this father and serves as the VP of Sales & Marketing. "Today you really need to be smarter about it." For Kyle, that means embracing modern marketing and a built out social media presence alongside upgrades like an at-home fitting program, online shoe customization engine, and computer-operated cutting machine capable of paring the prototyping process down to a matter of weeks, not months. The idea is to hand craft shoes without ignoring technologies that allow cobblers to work with more clients more efficiently.