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.