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 Hamilton Western Shirt
Customers who visit Hamilton's Houston workshop can still be measured for their own bespoke Hamilton shirt, but the company increasingly relies on its clients to figure out their own numbers and plug them into the brand's website. Hamilton's online customization engine allows shoppers to select a silhouette from five different shirt style choices, pick design details, and choose from a library of more than 130 fabric options before submitting their request. Western dress shirts remain the company's bread and butter but there are plenty more options that change from season to season. Though it doesn't chase trends, Hamilton shirts have a contemporary feel one might not expect given the brand's old-school bona fides. The 1883 Sport Shirts are particularly head turning and present a great example of the difference made when shirts are hand cut and sewn in the U.S. rather than built in factories abroad. [$225; hamiltonshirts.com]
Credit: Photograph by Michael Pirrocco