One of the greatest gifts a Designer/Merchant can have, as our Head of Design John Parenti happily attests, is a deep historical archive off of which to glean inspiration. “Having 137 years of history to leverage, not just from a product standpoint, but more importantly from a legacy standpoint, gives us an unrivaled position of strength in regards to the design process. That history is a warm backdrop against which we can tell any number of seasonal stories.”
Hardwick is indeed an American classic. But since Hardwick’s acquisition in 2014 by Cleveland business icon W. Allan Jones, we have been steadily revamping the product line to focus on finer materials, better make, and a broader, more contemporary merchandise mix.
Partnering heavily with our most influential regional accounts, and guided by the astute sartorial eye of Mr. Parenti, under the leadership of CEO Bruce Bellusci, Hardwick has transitioned from a business focused almost exclusively on the institutional poly/wool blends of the 80s and 90s, to one offering award-winning, thoughtfully-sourced, stylish product, in a variety of fits and fabrics, addressing both timeless classics (navy blazers, charcoal wool suits, seersucker) and fashion-forward seasonal styles (tweeds, cashmere blends, windowpane plaids, and other sharp patterned looks).
This approach culminates in our fall offering, which truly puts us on the map in a manner befitting our iconic, 137 year old Made in America history. “The most crucial element in this transition was nailing down the make,” Bellusci notes. “The workers we have in our Cleveland factory are now well-trained artisans, capable of crafting impeccably made product out of what are truly the finest materials the world has to offer. We are crafting world class garments, in soft, luxurious Vitale Barberis Super 150's and Reda Super 110's wool, custom buttons, pick-stitching, open patch pockets - for customers shelling out $500 or more, right here in America. Our people make investment-worthy, heirloom quality pieces, at great, enduring value, every day.”
Parenti adds, “Discerning customers – the folks we are focused on selling to – want lasting value. That comes down to the fit and the quality of the garment, which comes down to materials and ultimately the make. Our people make the finest, most fluidly-fitting product in the market. Period. And we do it all under one roof, right here in Cleveland, Tennessee. It is nothing short of a marvel watching all this come together.”
A growing number of consumers, helped along by an increased penetration in key accounts both national (NYC originals Saks Fifth Avenue, and Southern icons Dillard’s among others now stock both classic and seasonal styles) and local (visit our Store Locator to find a retailer near you) will echo Parenti’s sentiments, especially once they put on our garments.
In addition to the new designs and fabrics, Hardwick has also added Modern and now Trim fits to our stable, allowing our elegant offerings to reach what is rapidly becoming a younger and more style-obsessed demographic. One look at Instagram and it is clear this appeal translates easily beyond our Southern home, as Vice President of Marketing Chris Fleming will attest. He picked up stakes from his Brooklyn-based home and career and moved to Cleveland to help build the brand story, re-launch the company’s website, and establish the company’s voice and visual identity on a national scale. And he did it based more on the product than the backstory:
“As a Ralph Lauren trained marketer, I believe the story of America is told most clearly through clothing. With the current state of our country, there is a huge opportunity, really a NEED, for a committed Made in America clothing maker to step into this growing market. Hardwick's story alone – a 137 year old company, remaining 100% American Made since its founding, quietly plugging away in smalltown southern USA – was enough to open my ears.”
“But what sold me was the product (the Modern Fit Hopsack 660 Blazer to be specific) – it’s like wearing water, the fit is that balanced. I am a details guy, and we are committed down to that level. This isn’t a bunch of machines glue-fusing suits on a mass-market basis. This is well-trained American workers carefully crafting world class product, piece by piece. And it shows. It rivals anything made in Italy or England, and I can walk from my office out to the factory floor to see it being made before my eyes. It’s more than a marvel; it’s a miracle.”
For fall, Parenti took a balanced approach, incorporating autumnal hues with a grounding in traditional navys, grays, and browns: elegant tweeds in herringbones, checks, and Prince of Wales, among others, and trend-right plaids and patterns, in a varied mix of fits and fabrics. “The beauty of what we are accomplishing from both a design and a merchandising perspective, with the support of our retail partners, is we are able to offer, unlike any other maker in the segment, award-winning classics for a more traditional consumer. And now the most stylish, contemporary models for what is a younger, more fashion-focused consumer as well.”
Fleming concurs, adding “This approach opens the door to a much broader swath of potential customers, and allows us to tell our legacy story with a much more modern voice. Both segments appreciate the quality and value inherent in what we are making, and perhaps more importantly, are increasingly looking to support the Made in America movement. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Add to that the foundation of working class pride evident around every corner in our humble hometown of Cleveland, Tennessee, and it is no wonder the fashion world is buzzing about us: a new, yet decidedly old, player in an evolving market. Echoing Cleveland’s car racing past, Bellusci lauds the work done to this point, and notes the opportunity ahead: “This is special, what we are doing here. It has meaning, and that meaning is beginning to resonate. And we are just getting started. Better buckle up…”