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Inside Steven Alan

A Visit to the Fidelity Factory

  • Nick and Gary from our Boston team recently had the opportunity to visit the factory of Fidelity Sportswear, where they were given a tour by Gerald (Gerry) and Stewart Webber, family members who have been working with the company since the 1960′s. Under the duo’s watchful eye, the 72 year old American brand continues to adapt and thrive. Some highlights from their conversation about the factory, business, and the internet:

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    Gary at the factory entrance

    Fidelity Sportswear is listed as 167 Bow St, but it looks like you’re on both 165 and 167 Bow Street.
    We’re actually on both. We own the whole building. We’ve leased out space here and there to other companies, but we own it.

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    What was the building before that?
    It was used for storage and we bought it. We refurbished it about 30 years ago and not a hell of a lot since. It’s ready for another facelift that’s for sure (laughs).

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    Sample room. Every sample is made by one man in one room. All oak tags still remain. “Some oak tags go back 40 or 50 years.”

    The place is pretty big!
    Well, years ago, production runs used to be much bigger, everyone was buying “Made in the USA.” I’m talking 20-30 years ago. Then went everybody went overseas, our production rund got much smaller because we didn’t. Instead of having operators who stitch, make one pocket all day basically for a week, we’ve had to cross-train people. So they not only can stitch a pocket, but a flap, and a collar too. Out stitchers have become more versatile and that’s the reason we’ve been able to go to the shorter production runs.

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    Old advertisements line the walls

    Fidelity has been in business since 1941. What’s the key to longevity in America in Made in USA goods, especially considering how much things have changed?
    Well, I think that’s the key word. Being able to adapt to all the change. For example, there aren’t too many people our size, that have the piece of equipment [that we do] that’s going to allow us to tailor the garment better the first time which reduces the cost to our buyers and getting it right the first time.

    The market has changed tremendously since 1941. We’re still making some of the same garments we made in 1941, but the fit is totally different. Still making pea coats, still using the same anchor button, which is still used by the military. Since 1941. But being adaptable and being able to change.

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    Short production runs, more efficient people. “You know the knife, the electric knife you might use to cut roast beef? Well picture it sideways.” (Blue streak 2, fabric cutter photos)

    How many individual pieces would you say your most intricate design has?
    Gerry: You’ve given me two questions here. I’ll have to defer to Stew on this one, but I would think 40 would be the number. But the most difficult to make is multiple colors. Not the stitching, but the cutting gets very complicated.

    Stew: 42 to 45 maybe. That would be a lot but it wouldn’t be crazy. The most complicated? There’s a lot of different aspects, I guess . . . sewing it, cutting it . . . but shawl collars drive me nuts (laughs).

    Do you ever have rejected product runs? If so, what do you do with them?
    We have a modest amount of rejects, and we mostly give them to charity. At the end of the year we give usually to Good Will.

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    Gerry and Nick. After talking about the Fidelity website, Facebook, SEO, and the internet in general, Gerry responds, “I don’t know, I don’t know . . . we just make the popcorn. We just make the pizza.”

    Many thanks to Fidelity for having us! You can find the new fall delivery in our stores and in our web shop.

    This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 at 7:36 pm and is filed under In Stock, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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