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 Schott Perfecto
It may have been popularized by Marlon Brando and James Dean before being adopted by the CBGB crowd, but the Schott Perfecto Motorcycle Jacket traces its history even farther back. In 1928, Irving Schott designed and produced what's billed as the first mass-production leather biker jacket. Since then, the asymmetrical, belted style has spawned both countless copy cats and a host of new Schott styles. Though the jackets look great, they are as notable for the construction as they are for design. Each is made in a New Jersey factory a short drive away from where the jacket company was founded on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1913. Much has changed over the last century, but Schott has largely preserved the design of the Perfecto while employing softer, more pliable leathers. When the company opened its first store last fall, it became considerably easier for fans of the brand to try the jacket on. It remains hard to take it off. [$735; schottnyc.com]
Credit: Photograph by Michael Pirrocco