Our Factory: Southwick Clothing USA
February 13th, 2016
When we began developing our concept for Articles of Style Tailoring, we sampled garments from menswear manufacturers all around the world. We tapped deep into our rolodex of tailoring experts looking for a partner that could support our e-commerce fitting process while delivering garments with the craftsmanship and attention to detail that you would expect from Articles of Style. As it turns out, what we were looking for was right in our backyard.
After several rounds of sampling and a couple in-person visits, it was clear that Southwick Clothing was the best partner for us. Not only did they have the infrastructure that would allow us to innovate in the online tailoring space, but they also have an undeniable history of classic American design. They’ve made garments for corporate leaders, US presidents, cultural icons…and now we’re offering one-on-one fittings for Articles of Style readers from the comfort of their homes.
During one of our visits to the factory we had a chance to sit and chat with the CEO of Southwick John Martynec; a strong believer in the future of domestic manufacturing who knows that it’s going to take innovation and investments in technology, education and, most importantly, people to keep the tradition of American tailoring alive and well.
Here’s a closer look at where, why and how our garments are made along with some insights from the man in charge of America’s oldest menswear manufacturer.
American Menswear since 1929
“Southwick has been synonymous with American menswear since 1929 and has been a staple of clothing manufacturing in the North East. The natural shoulder aesthetic is what we’ve been founded on. American’s want a natural, comfortable look, and it’s something we try to exemplify in everything we do. Ivy style, the natural shoulder – that’s what we’re known for… It’s a hybrid; you can wear it in a formal environment or a casual environment. The key is making it right for someone’s lifestyle, so that’s what we’re always trying to do.
Our demand has been off the charts lately. We moved into a new factory 5 years ago, and we’ve just finished moving into another building twice that size. It’s because there’s value in American made products… We see this resurgence as the beginning. We’re re-investing in young people by teaching them the trade, because we believe there’s a future for clothing production here in the United States… Our sales are domestic and international – it’s not just about the quality of the craftsmanship, it’s about a resurgence of true American fashion.
What I find encouraging is that younger people know more about quality products, whether it’s clothing, or shoes, or a microbrewery… This ultimatley helps artisanal types of businesses, and we see ourselves as artisanal, in that our products and services are specialized for different customers. This business was founded on speciality stores – that special personal relationship – and that’s what we’re trying to rekindle by means of trying to share our story with our customers and teaming up with new leaders in the space to offer a higher level of service.” -JM
One-on-One Fitting Attention
Having a direct day-to-day relationship with our manufacturer is what allows us to provide a level of individual service and personal attention that you would receive with an in-person tailor shop, but with the added convenience and marketability of e-commerce.
“Tailoring begins with pattern-making, which is determined by a person’s anatomy. You could say it’s a simple but complicated process; there’s roughly 145 different operations in making a jacket and 55 in making a trouser. There’s a lot of work that goes into making each of our products, and to making them a little more special for our customer who will wear them time and time again.” -JM
The Art of “Slow Fashion”
“We’re the opposite of fast fashion, or disposable clothing. We believe in investment clothing. That’s why we buy the best fabrics and raw materials from all over the world… We’ve met a lot of younger guys who’ve taken their grandfathers clothing and re-cut it for an updated fit. That tells us that they want traditional American clothing, but updated for their modern lifestyle. So I think that’s the path that we have to work on; updating what we do for younger customers as well as servicing the gentleman in his 40s, 50s and 60s.” -JM
Talented & Experienced Craftsmen
Southwick has been able to retain talent in a major way – in some cases for more than 40 years. As you walk the shop floor, you see experienced craftsman in white lab coats who take great pride in their work. This is another example of the commitment to “slow fashion” – the opposition to the fast fashion trend which is all about exploiting cheap labour from inexperienced assembly line workers in impoverished areas of the world.
For a more in-depth look at the perils of “fast fashion”, read our article True Cost of Cheap Clothing.
Meticulous Attention to Detail
We cut fabric, not corners. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it was to find a manufacturer with attention to detail when it comes to things like cutting and matching patterns. Literally every factory we sampled from got this wrong. The reason is; it takes additional fabric (and time, and money) to cut patterns properly (think checks or pinstripes).
We were ultimately looking for a shop that understood the importance of making a garment the right way, not the easy or cheap way, and this is only one example of our shared commitment to excellence.
Expert Quality Control
Before any garment leaves the workshop, it’s triple-checked one last time to ensure it was crafted to our exacting standards and our client’s most up-to-date measurements. If something is incorrect, it is re-cut or re-made, because we are only interested in delivering great garments to our clients.
Modern Tailoring Innovation
“Suits are always going to be an important part of menswear [the suit has barely changed over the last 100 years], but guys are wearing them differently now. Younger guys want a more muted, flatter finish, often with more texture… We’re also introducing fabrics that have natural stretch in them, to make them more comfortable.” -JM
Premium Packaging & Delivery
Every suit, overcoat and jacket from Articles of Style is shipped by FedEx on a full-shoulder hanger in a standing suit box. It’s pressed, protected in garment wrap, and ready to be worn. This is just another example of how we are committed to delivering a great customer experience from start to finish.
Satisfaction & Fit Guarantee
We’ve committed to a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. As a client of Articles of Style, you can buy custom clothing online, worry free. If you are not completely satisfied with your garments for any reason, simply return them for a full refund. This is how confident we are in our fitting process, our garments, and our customer service.
American Tailoring means American Jobs!
The best part is, we are creating American jobs and supporting American fashion!
“Our perspective is that you can always find a garment less expensive made some place in the world – but there’s a value to making it in the United States. As we’re standing here [in the factory] these people live in America [have respectable wages, benefits, pensions, etc]. We try to be sustainable, recycle, and understand the community we live in… Our customers are forcing us to change how we think and how we act. There a consciousness happening that we believe is important for the future of the garment business.” -JM
Thanks, as always, for reading – and special thanks to John and the Southwick team. If you have any additional questions, feel free to use to comments section below, or email us directly at: email@example.com.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yours in style,
Photography by Alex Crawford.