Out Out Brief Candle: Lights Dim On Southwick

Over the past week devoted readers have left comments suggesting that something was going on at Southwick. I can now confirm the disheartening news.

In November, shortly before leaving New York, I met with a Southwick representative. Oddly enough, it was in the new cafe Brooks Brothers opened on the first floor of its Madison Avenue flagship. The source was excited about the company’s plans to rebuild Southwick as a stand-alone trad brand. But yesterday the source confirmed that things have done an about-face. Brooks Brothers has not only nixed the Southwick brand expansion, it has halted all third-party production for Southwick as a domestic manufacturer — and one of the last — of tailored menswear. To the best of my knowledge, the factory will now be used only for the small amount of Brooks Brothers clothing not made overseas.

Currently the Southwick website is still active, and includes the following history on its Heritage page. — CC

Mention the name Southwick and traditionalists nod in recognition: authentic American style, natural shoulder, comfort, quality and fine fabrics. Since 1929 Southwick has been dressing discerning customers who appreciate Southwick’s trademark of understated elegance and quality workmanship.

Nicholas and Vito Grieco immigrated to this country from a remote Italian village in the early 1900s. Hardworking and ambitious, they ran a suit-pressing business in Brooklyn, then a successful tailor shop in New York until the outbreak of World War I forced them to close. Undaunted, they opened a suit business in Massachusetts where they honed their skills as master tailors and experimented with mass production techniques. When that business folded, they worked for another manufacturer until their entrepreneurial zeal propelled them to found Grieco Bros. in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1929. Their custom made suits embodied a fundamentally British attitude toward clothing; the natural shoulder philosophy. This was somewhat iconoclastic for the times, as fashion dictated a more exaggerated look; heavy padding at the shoulder, more severe tapering at the waist, deep pleats. While this ’20s look becomes trendy from time to time, the natural shoulder style; with its simpler, cleaner lines has become a time-honored classic.

Customers turn to Southwick not just because the look is right, but also because the craftsmanship provides enduring value, an important consideration when investing in a suit. The roots of the company’s business philosophy are firmly grounded in the singular American vision of its founders: a love of quality and craftsmanship. Our clothing reflects the natural shoulder philosophy that your clothing should look like you, not us.

28 Comments on "Out Out Brief Candle: Lights Dim On Southwick"

  1. Charlottesville | February 4, 2020 at 2:20 pm |

    Very sad news. I guess that leaves the Canadian company Empire as the last traditional maker of made-to-order, and possibly ready-to-wear, 3/2 sacks. Or are there others? I know that J. Press, O’Connell’s and Eljo’s locally all relied on Southwick for much of their tailored clothing. I wonder whether Brooks can single-handedly give Southwick enough work to keep the company going at full speed.

  2. Charlottesville,
    Isn’t Samuelsohn in Canada?
    Regarding BB, they could if they wanted to, so that nixes that.

  3. Samuelsohn, I understand, has been quite inconsistent lately.

  4. This is really, incredibly sad. I was just trying to order something through their new made-to-order program too. Hopefully the decision maker responsible at Fratelli di Brooks S.A. will see the light, or better yet, find new employment and they’ll make a U turn.

    This kind of knee caps J Press’ supply chain too, no?

  5. whiskeydent | February 4, 2020 at 4:34 pm |

    Brooks’ leadership is out of their rabbit-assed minds. I assume it’s about making their bottom line look better to a potential buyer, though I wonder if a wise buyer would want the shell of an Italian suit store instead of a credible American brand.

    And the horse they rode in on.

  6. Southwick closed their factory store in Haverhill, Mass. as well as their factory store in Garland, N.C. which sold shirts.

    Their ties are still made in Long Island City and there used to be a factory store in L.I.C. if I remember correctly, but it has since closed.

    All three stores were secret stores even the locals didn’t know about.

  7. I have to wonder if Brooks thinks there’s some large corps of Southwick aficionados who will leave the independents to get suits at BB, and, “well, while I’m here…” buy their shirts, belts, socks, sweaters, etc.

    Or will most stay with their “locals” and wear what they now sell, reducing Southwick sales overall? And, in addition, badmouth Brooks to anyone who’ll listen.

  8. Ken Pollock | February 4, 2020 at 6:02 pm |

    I think that Southwick was still making fully canvassed jackets and suits for O’Connells, which sold them for only about $100 more than the 1/2 canvassed ones Southwick sold through Brooks. Yet when I last saw fully canvassed Southwick-made “Golden Fleece” suits at Brooks, they were trying to get $2,500 for them, more than double the price of the 1/2 canvassed “1818” models. It made no sense. I suspect that all “Golden Fleece” suits sold at Brooks are now made in Italy. Did Southwick make clothing for Ben Silver? I think that H. Stockton recently stopped using it.

  9. NaturalShoulder | February 4, 2020 at 7:33 pm |

    Disappointing news indeed for those in Tradsville. While I appreciated the American-made garments and rich history, I found that Samuelson produced a better quality offering at a comparable price. I have been quite pleased with all of my Samuelson purchases.

  10. @Natural Shoulder: Couldn’t agree more. My town boasts two relatively traditional men’s shops. One has a MTM program run through Hickey and Oxxford. The other utilized Southwick and Samuelsohn at first and has been running MTM solely through Samuelsohn for the past few years due to challenges with Southwick. Lots of shoulder dimpling, as I understand.

  11. Ken Pollock,
    I visited Ben Silver within the last couple of months and their sport coats looked to me to be very Southwick. (Way over-priced, and I don’t care for patch pockets.) I didn’t even bring up MTM.

  12. “…it has halted all third-party production for Southwick as a domestic manufacturer.”

    “Has halted.” This is past-perfect tense, but my local clothier says they remain open for MTM business.

    ?

  13. There are at least a couple of U.S.A. manufacturers making great-looking natural shoulder clothing; both offer Ivy/Trad specs (undarted, hook vent, etc.) for the die-hard’s.

  14. Does this mean that the MTO program is suspended as well, or simply that they will no longer manufacture for companies other than Brooks?

  15. I visited Southwick a few years back (2014/5) inquiring about using their production for a friend’s clothing business. We were told that they were at capacity and weren’t taking any new customers, but they were also building a new production facility across the street and once that opened they’d have the space to take us on. Nothing ended up coming to pass, but based on what we saw (an absolutely humming factory) and were told, this news comes as a shock. Who turns away business? Unless of course the BB powers at be drove it into the toilet.

  16. Charlottesville | February 5, 2020 at 11:49 am |

    For those who have used the Canadian company Samuelsohn recently, do the shoulders on their 3/2 sacks look good? I bought a sport coat from them and it seemed to be well made, but the shoulders always seemed too squared off. That was more than 10 years ago, and I have since given it to Goodwill.

    S.E. – That is good news. Who are the other US manufacturers who do traditional 3/2 sack suits and sport coats? I think Hickey Freeman, which is owned by Samuelsohn, may still manufacture clothing in New York, but am not sure.

  17. For those who are interested in 3/2 sacks, I was happy with a H. Freeman MTM blazer through Izzy @ LS.

  18. Ditto about Izzy at LS. Just tell him to have H. Freeman duplicate the old Norman Hilton Hampton model. Actually, the last time I saw Izzy he said he still had one Hilton left in the store, but I did not ask if it was the Hampton or the West End.

  19. @S.E. and @Non ut Sibi, yeah it seems like we’re in the depths of the rumor mill right now. I was just talking with someone at the factory and he said all they’re doing is setting a minimum volume for orders. So they’re cutting out their smallest boutique customers but keeping their medium and large customers.
    He also said that the factory store, and made to order wasn’t affected by this. In fact, I just ordered 2 MTO jackets this morning.

  20. To follow up on my own comment, as well as @Natoma’s, I emailed them this morning and MTO is still available. If you’re interested in getting a sack jacket, I HIGHLY recommend this route. You can go for the Douglas or the Cambridge, and many of the measurements of the jacket are customizable, as well as pocket style, the ability to order the Cambridge unlined, etc. And, a huge value as the Cambridge navy blazer that I ordered clocked in right at $400. Hard to find that price anywhere else.

  21. Adrian Jules. The Stuart model — natural shoulder/ “Ivy League” model. You can specify no darts, hook vent. Izzy considered it a while back. I found another tailor who uses AJ for his own patterns. (Old) Chipp-level handwork. Great value.

  22. whiskeydent | February 6, 2020 at 1:05 pm |

    What is LS and who is Izzy?

  23. NaturalShoulder | February 6, 2020 at 1:33 pm |

    @Charlottesville – I am wearing a navy 3/2 jacket from Samuelson today and couldn’t ask for more natural shoulders

  24. Charlottesville | February 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm |

    Thanks, Natural Shoulder. And with your nom de net, who could be more reliable on the subject?

    whiskeydent – I had the same question.

  25. @S.E. Who’s your tailor that uses Adrian Jules?

    Also, where does one go for Samuelsohn MTM in NYC? Is it really comparable in price to Southwick?

    I heard Southwick is halting MTM towards the end of March but, with all the rumors flying around, who knows.

  26. Was at the Andover Shop on Friday where they confirmed that MTM is going away. In fact if you wanted a suit with their farbrics, the factory needed it on hand by 2/29. They’re going to meet with the head of the Southwick factory to see if they can negotiate some leeway in terms of timing for MTM, since they’re they biggest customer in that regard.

    I then headed to the Southwick factory store to see if they had anything in my size since they emailed out 50% off coupons and noticed the factory was idled. Store inventory hadn’t changed much in the month or so since I was last there. Disheartening.

  27. This could be good news, at least for RTW. If you compare the vast majority of what Southwick made for Press, O’Connells, and other labels in the last 15 years to what it made in the 90s and before, it is definitely different and by any objective measure inferior in cut and construction. For starters, the shoulders are not what they ought to be. [if you don’t believe me, take a look of that photo by McQueen by that jag, and ask yourself if you get can any jacket that looks like that off the rack today]. What they have been given by Southwick for RTW in recent years has not been tailored enough to the specific requirements of their house styles but has been mainstreamed with certain details retained that are obvious such as hook vents. If these companies are going to compete in the post-internet market and not merely depend on their label and ‘brand heritage,’ they need to improve quality and make the product both internally and externally distinctive. Ideally a smaller, niche factory would emerge to really do things right, but probably costs would be prohibitive. Press and Chipp used to have New Haven factories that employed scores of tailors. That may not be realistic but they should demand more from their suppliers.

  28. In a word, the problems are overall boxiness, overall softness of construction, and shoulders.

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