Schott’s chief operating officer talks The Ramones, The Boss and the outerwear brand’s iconic styles with Marie Davies.
Your great grandfather Irving Schott founded Schott in 1913- how does it feel to be part of such an iconic brand? Were you aware of the influence growing up?
It’s a combination of a tremendous source of pride and a sense of responsibility to stand up to the name that my family has laid out. I was always aware of the factory and I grew up going in to work with my family riding golf carts around and jumping on giant boxes of fabric. I saw journalists interviewing my great-grandfather and marketing was definitely a priority but everyone was pretty humble about the influence of the brand. We were fortunate to have international partners who pushed the brand history before we did. I swept floors and loaded trucks in High School and started to gain an understanding of the business but everyone was just concentrating on running the factory and making high quality products.
Schott was revolutionary for its time- the first to put zips on a jacket - how has the brand kept forward thinking without losing the brand identity?
Having our own factory and being on the factory floor everyday has certainly helped to keep us grounded. My great-grandfather and my grandfather laid a great foundation for the brand. Everything we do revolves around making things with the same equipment and processes that they were so it’s hard to deviate far from the brand heritage.
Your great grandfather sold the raincoats door to door back in the day- how many sales doors to you have now, and which one are you most proud of?
Schott NYC is available worldwide, we are currently in 45 doors in the UK. We have four Schott mono brand stores in Japan and one in Paris. We are very proud to be in stores like Selfridges, Barneys New York, Bloomingdales, Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, Isetan, and Beams+.
The motorcycle jacket is iconic Schott- how has the design changed since the original?
Honestly, it has not changed much! It has varied in sizing slightly and we have updated some of the trims but we still cut each piece by hand with many of the same patterns and use the original machines. The star on the epaulets came in to play around the 1950s but we are using similar skins today as the original.
The Perfecto collection of jackets was named after the favourite cigar of your great grandfather- what was his reason for this?
My great-grandfather never thought that anyone would want to buy a jacket with his name on it. Perfecto was actually the name of the elite collection of leather jackets created in the 1920s but the name has stuck to the asymmetrical motorcycle jacket style.
The Schott Perfecto has been worn by The Clash, Blondie and Lady Gaga to name but a few- in your opinion who wore it best?
Well we are very grateful for all of the big celebrities who have worn our jackets over the past 99 years but we have a special affinity for the one who brought it the most fame, Marlon Brando. It’s hard to picture The Ramones without thinking of our Perfectos. Also, we have New Jersey pride so we love when The Boss, Bruce Springsteen wears it!
During WWII Schott designed the bomber jacker for the US Air Force, and iconic pea coat for the Navy- how long did that relationship last?
We still make those WWII pea coats and bomber jackets that we supplied to the same military specifications and are still making certain styles for the military today.
Schott is synonymous with American culture, even banned in schools in the 1950s for representing teen hoodlum after actor Marlon Brando wore his Schott in the The Wild Ones- what are the biggest challenges as trends evolve and move on?
Trends are cyclical; we have seen our various iconic styles come in and out of fashion in many different ways over the past 100 years. Luckily we seem to always have some category that is on trend. We don’t chase the trends, we just stay true to our history and people can usually find something that works for them.
When joining the family business in 1999 what were some of the first effects you had on the brand?
I’ve been pretty involved in introducing new technology and building a web business. As a Certified Public Accountant I had the opportunity to see how a lot of different companies ran their operations, so I was able to reorganise ways to make the family business more efficient.
How have you helped shape Schott in its recent years?
We have always had different product offerings in different parts of the world. As a company we have been working on streamlining with our international partners to have one image for the brand world wide, rooted in our heritage and history, while looking forward and developing new styles and categories.
One of the ways we’ve accomplished this is by launching the Perfecto Brand by Schott NYC collection last year. We try to interpret styles from our archives in modern fits with unexpected materials. We source everything in the USA and it is all made in our factory in New Jersey. It is one collection available worldwide and has been well received.
Over the years, has the company become any wiser in its strategy during economic downturns?
The recession has actually helped us in a way because it changed people’s perception of what kind of clothing they want to buy and those trends have benefited us. People are buying quality products that will last for a long period of time rather than throw away fashion.
What is next for Schott internationally?
We are celebrating our 100th Anniversary in 2013 so we are working on some exciting projects and events worldwide.
If you weren’t part of the Schott dynasty what would you be doing?
I would probably still be in accounting balancing debts and credits locked in an office somewhere. Needless to say, I’m having a lot more fun and find this much more rewarding.
What’s the best and worst part of working with family?
It’s great to have people that you trust and have your back no matter what. There are times in business where you have to make difficult decisions and it makes it easier when you don’t have to be political and can be straightforward. There are times when we have heated discussions and differences of opinions on certain issues, which can be hard to leave at the office when getting together for family functions, but I think we have done a good job at managing that.
Sum up Schott in three words?
Rugged, authentic, Americana
And lastly can you ride a motorcycle?