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 Rancourt & Co. Boat Shoe
When it comes to American dress shoes, the boat shoe is as classic as it gets. The style popularized by Connecticut shoemaker Paul Sperry in the thirties is Rancourt's most admired product because it showcases the company's specialty: handsewn Moccasin construction. The Rancourt's take on the iconic shoe relies on Chromexcel leather sourced from Chicago's Horween Leather Company – itself a family-owned business – and cut with steel blades before being pulled together with waxed thread for a precise fit. The shoes are made in much the same way as penny loafers, which were Dave Rancourt's specialty when he was making private label collections in the sixties. The Rancourts remain the best in the business at "Moc Toe" construction and their boat shoes are as durable as they are handsome. [From $227; rancourtandcompany.com]
Credit: Photograph by Michael Pirrocco