or Connect
Styleforum › Forums › Men's Style › Classic Menswear › WSJ Hckey Freeman article
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

WSJ Hckey Freeman article

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Anyone else see this in today's journal?


By RAY A. SMITH
Hickey Freeman, the men's label that for decades has been a go-to American suit brand for bankers and lawyers, is undergoing a big makeover in the hopes of boosting its fashion cred.

The change is part of a broader attempt to resuscitate the 123-year-old clothing manufacturer formerly known as Hartmarx Corp., which makes Hickey Freeman and other clothing. It filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009, just days after celebrating the fact that Barack Obama donned both a Hart Schaffner Marx suit and tux on his inauguration day.

Ultimately the company was felled not just by the weak economy but, observers say, by its failure to adapt to new trends in men's clothes, like slimmer fits and more dress-casual looks.

Now Hickey Freeman suits, previously known for a boxy fit and a conservative style, boast things like less-padded shoulders, softer chests, a trimmer silhouette and flat-front pants, plus bolder patterns and fabrics.

"We want to attract the younger and younger-thinking customer," says men's fashion designer Joseph Abboud, who was hired in January as the company's creative director. "Hickey Freeman was much more traditional under the old regime," he says. "It lacked sex appeal."

The new looks won't be in stores until spring, but the company is debuting its new image in print ads, shot by Annie Leibovitz, next month. They'll appear in the September issues of magazines such as GQ, Details and Vanity Fair.

Hartmarx, now called HMX, was acquired in August for about $120 million in a venture led by SKNL North America BV, a subsidiary of an Indian textile maker. The company tapped branding guru David Lipman, who is credited with helping revamp the images of Burberry and Lord & Taylor, to create a new, more modern identity and a splashy marketing blitz for Hickey Freeman. It hired Doug Williams, a veteran menswear executive, as its chief executive last September.

HMX's push comes as the men's suit business shows signs of strengthening, though not yet enough to return sales to pre-recession levels. Men's suits were hit especially hard during the global economic downturn, retailers say, as men backed off on big-ticket items and updated their wardrobes by buying new shirts or ties instead. Sales have risen 4.5% to $2.41 billion for the 12 months ended May 31, says market research firm NPD Group.

Some retail executives have credited men in their 20s and 30s with driving recent suit sales. In attempting to reach younger men, Hickey Freeman now faces competition from popular designer brands like Rag & Bone that have ramped up the portion of suits in their collections and even stores like J. Crew, which recently has been placing more emphasis on suits. HMX has specific challenges in that its Hickey Freeman suits, which are made in the U.S. with prices that start around $1,300, are perceived as being outdated.

"They're going to have to be able to satisfy both [new and old customers] but they don't want to lose that loyal customer," says Andrew Jassin, managing director of the Jassin Consulting group. "That Hickey Freeman customer is not buying Armani"”that customer is an American built guy who needs a well-cut suit."

"They've done a really good job of updating," says Tom Ott, a general merchandise manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, about the retooled Hickey Freeman.

Messrs. Abboud and Williams say the changes to the Hickey Freeman suits aren't so aggressive that the brand will lose its core identity. "We didn't try to make this Dolce & Gabbana," says Mr. Abboud. "We're not talking about suits for insider fashionistas. It's about great modern sexy clothes for the American business guy." The company also expanded Hickey Freeman's offerings of sportier clothing beyond suits, which hadn't been a focus in Hickey Freeman's past.
post #2 of 17
Can't compete b/c it's made in the US with high quality fabrics and materials. There goes the full canvassing. There goes the US factories. I can feel it coming. Soon HF will just be a logo with products made in India, China, or elsewhere, with the standard fused construction. I dread this day.
post #3 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by coltboy75 View Post
"We want to attract the younger and younger-thinking customer," says men's fashion designer Joseph Abboud, who was hired in January as the company's creative director. "Hickey Freeman was much more traditional under the old regime," he says. "It lacked sex appeal."

Wait wut?

I don't know what the quality of Joseph Abboud was like before he left the brand, but I've seen some jaz pieces from his recent label and they've sucked as well, not just in quality but in design.
post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by scurvyfreedman View Post
Can't compete b/c it's made in the US with high quality fabrics and materials. There goes the full canvassing. There goes the US factories. I can feel it coming. Soon HF will just be a logo with products made in India, China, or elsewhere, with the standard fused construction.

I dread this day.


Well, HF is now owned by an Indian company, S Kumars which also owns Reid & Taylor. I dont know what R &T was doing before the takeover but these days its mid-level manufacturer with a lot of its production in India
post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by scurvyfreedman View Post
Can't compete b/c it's made in the US with high quality fabrics and materials. There goes the full canvassing. There goes the US factories. I can feel it coming. Soon HF will just be a logo with products made in India, China, or elsewhere, with the standard fused construction.

I dread this day.


Yup...can you say Z Zenga?
post #6 of 17
^^ Z Zegna is made in India / China ?
post #7 of 17
Apparently this is a company that now feels they must do something. Sadly, it sounds as though it would be better to do nothing, than the direction their headed. Big fan of the brand, just picked up a new HF suit last month.
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by coltboy75 View Post
Now Hickey Freeman suits, previously known for a boxy fit and a conservative style, boast things like less-padded shoulders, softer chests, a trimmer silhouette and flat-front pants, plus bolder patterns and fabrics.

This sounds pretty good to me.
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by aj_del View Post
^^ Z Zegna is made in India / China ?

Mexico?
post #10 of 17
........
post #11 of 17
From what I understand, they still plan to make their suits in the US.

They will be introducting a new line that is cheaper (half-canvassed like the BB 1818) and targets a younger crowd. Also, I believe they are going to start carrying more sportswear.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicola View Post
Mexico?


That what I have seen, just stuff made in Mexico...but I am in Canada...they might have European made stuff for the European market
post #13 of 17
thanks for posting this.

i find it odd that they are talking about promoting more modern cuts while they are winding down (or are they?) the Hickey brand, which sought to accomplish just that.

i cannot imagine that HF will stop making canvassed mainline suits. that will kill their brand. while i don't wear HF myself, i do hope they are not that dumb / short-sighted. they should do what everyone else does, which is set up a sublabel for cheaper stuff. oh wait, they tried that with hickey

funny that abboud is now talking about how HF had no sex appeal. pot, meet kettle?
post #14 of 17
The Z doesn't fit me so I don't really look at it normally. But I thought it was mostly Mexico made.
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by OttoSkadelig View Post
i cannot imagine that HF will stop making canvassed mainline suits.

They aren't.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Classic Menswear
Styleforum › Forums › Men's Style › Classic Menswear › WSJ Hckey Freeman article