Thursday, December 17, 2015

Going home

A personal note.

Shortly after I finished design school I was working at a small design house in Montreal when someone from one of the local factories told me that the general manager of the place they worked wanted to meet me. It had come to his attention that there was a young tailor working right around the corner and they needed more tailors. I had known of Samuelsohn for a very long time so I was excited to be summoned. They offered me a job right away and I accepted and began a career in tailored clothing manufacturing.

Samuelsohn is a company which places a high degree of importance on quality so I learned a lot about the mechanization and industrialization of traditional tailoring techniques with which I was already familiar, but never did I see an engineer doing time studies or hear discussions about costs or yields or output. After some time with the company my mentor told me that there was another company which needed someone like me. I didn't want to leave but he told me that I had a good understanding of how to do things well, but no idea how to do things efficiently and inexpensively, and that I should go work for a variety of companies and learn the different facets of the industry. Learn how to manufacture garments offshore. Learn how to forecast fabric and trim requirements. All sorts of things. He told me I wouldn't be ready to settle until I was into my forties. So armed with this advice I left Samuelsohn to go work for an importer, and then a few companies after that. On my last day a member of the Samuelsohn family told me that I would be back some day, that this was my home and my family.

Fast forward about 15 years and I was approached to go work for HMX group, formerly known as Hartmarx, in Chicago. I would take over the Hart Schaffner & Marx brand and help revitalize it, but one of the carrots they dangled was the opportunity to do some work with, and then perhaps some day take over as well, our sister company Hickey Freeman. Hickey Freeman is a factory that does some beautiful garments, mostly full-canvas like Samuelsohn, and I was lucky to work with that factory and with another mentor who was there at the time, Paul Farrington. At one point Hickey Freeman was sold, interestingly enough, to Samuelsohn, which was a huge disappointment to me. Some time later I was approached about helping to turn around another struggling company in the south, so I and two other colleagues ade plans to go south and fix the struggling company.

The company in question had been forced in to bankruptcy and had been producing very low cost and low quality garments. Our job was to redesign all the product, redesign the factory so that they could produce a better quality garment, teach existing staff how to do it, and hire other new staff and train them. A year and a half later we have gone from 210 employees to well over 300, we have made major strides in the quality, fit and appearance of the garments being produced, and were recently honored with an award given by a magazine which is hugely popular n the south known as Garden and Gun. There are still challenges which exist in terms of getting everyone up to full efficiency so the factory can meet the huge increase in demand, and some tweaks to the fit now that we see full production runs instead of just samples, but I feel like the bulk of the heavy lifting has been done.

So now I have a chance to "go home". I will be joining (or re-joining) the Luxury Mens Apparel Group, the company which owns Samuelsohn and Hickey Freeman in the new year, going back to work with a lot of the same people I have worked with over the years, plus a lot of new and fantastic ones. I will spend some time in Montreal, at Samuelsohn, before settling in Rochester at the Hickey Freeman factory. And now that I have reached those dreaded forties I am hoping it's now time to settle down. So Jack and George were both right, those twenty years ago.


House of Pinheiro said...

Your jorney is truly inspiring.

Reader said...

Thanks for sharing that with us, and best of luck in the new year.

Marysia said...

Hi there Jeffery,
As a retired Heahunter ( but still working when loyal clients need our help) I find your career journey an interesting one. Ah, to be forty again; its a great age career wise I think, still so much to look forward to.

You have done amazing work in so many companies, and also affected other peoples lives and careers by putting their jobs back on a firmer footing. So thrilled that you continue to go from strength to strength.

Congratulations on this latest development. Does this mean moving home again for you and your family Jeffery?

Wishing you all the best for this Christmas and the exciting year ahead!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeffery!

Thanks for sharing your journey in the garment industry. I'm so excited for you! You've been such an inspiration to those of us trying to learn how to properly tailor a suit.

Good luck to you, best wishes for a Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

You've had a good journey so far, and not everyone has such good advice as you got all those years ago. And not all who got that advice would have taken it. As far as the dreaded 40s... you're barely out of childhood to this old bat :-) !

Best wishes on the new job.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! a wonderful story.

Su-z said...

Congratulations on your full circle. My husband's Samuelsohn pieces are my favorites of all his menswear. Wouldn't hesitate to buy anything from them.

Max said...

Congratulations, and welcome back to Montreal (even for a short while). Canada is not the same without you ;-) Happy-happy new adventures ahead!

Spookietoo said...

Congratulations Jeffery! Your blog is truly one of the finest gifts on the internet for anyone wanting a better understanding of quality clothing, I can certainly believe your contributions to any manufacturer would be of the highest standards.

We in east tn are losing a gem.

Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

What an exciting start to a new 2016 Jeffrey. I do enjoy your blog posts; they have led me down quite a few sartorial wormholes. I've just received my bespoke jacket from Brita Hirsch of Hirsch Tailoring in the UK and will post about it soon. So unfortunate to have arrived in the heat of summer cos I'm dying to wear it.
Have a wonderful Christmas break and huge congratulations. It must be great to know you've improved the world ;)

Anonymous said...

He's baaaaaack! Welcome home J.

s. said...

what goes around comes around.

best wishes for 2016 mr d.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on the new opportunity -- it sounds as if the timing is right and you will be back where you feel that you belong. By chance will you be taking appointments for measuring and fitting MTM garments at H-F? I have been considering making a stop at the H-F HQ to order some MTM under the presumption that its the best place to achieve optimal results. Needless to say, I would be that much more enticed to make the trip if I had the chance to work with you.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Unknown- one of the best ways for manufacturers to tick off the retailers is to sell directly to consumers (it's one the reasons Bill's Khakis got into trouble). That said, I expect I will be doing trunk shows at retailers around the country and if I do, I will post about it here as well as Hickey's social media channels.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Jeffery - Please do let us know what your trunk show schedule will be like. I would love to make an appointment with you when you make it to the Baltimore/Washington Metro area. I will also be curious for your recommendations for cloths that won't take a shine. ;)

- The Louche

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