Schott Brothers, Inc. History
Perth Amboy, New Jersey 08861
Telephone: (732) 442-2486
Fax: (732) 442-6666
Founded: 1913 as Schott Bros.
Sales: $6.5 million (2003)
NAIC: 315211 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Apparel Contractors (pt); 315222 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Suit, Coat, and Overcoat Manufacturing; 315234 Women's and Girls; Cut and Sew Suit, Coat, Tailored Jacket, and Skirt Manufacturing; 315999 Other Apparel Accessories and Other Apparel Manufacturing (pt)
We are a true-blue, real-deal, piece of Americana. Quality, innovation, and individuality define everything we do and every jacket we make. Whether protecting WWII fly boys in the air over Europe or infuriating the establishment on the backs of Brando and Dean, our jackets have become infused in American culture and have served as battle flags for the American spirit.
- Schott Bros. is founded by Irving and Jack Schott.
- Company opens manufacturing facility in Staten Island; puts "Perfecto" label on outerwear.
- Irving Schott is the first clothier to sew a zipper on a jacket.
- Schott Bros. designs the first leather motorcycle jacket; manufacturing facility moves to South Amboy, New Jersey.
- Schott Bros. supplies "bomber jackets" to World War II pilots.
- Manufacturing moves to Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
- Schott motorcycle jackets are popularized by Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones.
- Schott Bros. begins selling "Perfecto" jackets in Europe.
- Company moves to 250,000-square-foot facility in Perth Amboy.
- Schott introduces classic naval pea coats.
- Company adds its first line exclusively for women.
- Company acquires U.B. TUFF.
- Schott re-releases limited edition replica of original "Perfecto" jacket.
Schott Brothers, Inc. is one of the largest manufacturers of American-made men's and women's outerwear. The company is most well known for its tradition of creating quality leather jackets, especially the Schott "Perfecto." The "Perfecto" is the original biker jacket made famous by actor Marlon Brando in the 1950s classic film The Wild Ones. Schott's signature apparel is manufactured at the 250,000-square-foot company headquarters in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Schott sells its handmade quality jackets and accessories worldwide. The company product line has evolved from the original sheepskin-lined raincoats sold door-to-door in New York City, to more than 100 different garments and accessories in men's and women's outerwear and sportswear lines, which are sold in retail stores and through the Internet. The company produces and sells approximately 350,000 to 400,000 apparel items annually.
Four generations of the Schott family have been involved in overseeing the privately owned specialty apparel business. The family has made it a priority to maintain the commitment to handcrafted quality intended by founder Irving Schott. In addition to the traditional leather outerwear created by Schott, the company produces wool peacoats, as well as jackets made from corduroy, down, and sateen. Schott's clothing lines include retro, motorcycle, American classic, military, wool, nylon, and women's lines.
A Humble Beginning: 1913-20s
In 1913, Irving Schott, son of Russian immigrants, founded Schott Bros. with his brother Jack. Their first humble workspace was in the basement of a tenement building on Manhattan's Lower East Side. There they hand cut and sewed sheepskin-lined raincoats, which were sold door-to-door. According to the creators, durability and functionality were the primary features of their high quality, handcrafted jackets.
Two years later the brothers had generated enough business to move to a manufacturing site in Staten Island. That same year Irving gave the brand name "Perfecto" to Schott Bros. leather jackets. The "Perfecto" name referred to Irving's favorite Cuban cigars, which were a regular accessory of the company founder. Schott's Perfecto jacket would be recognized as the finest American-made leather jacket for more than 30 years.
In the 1920s Irving and Jack were recognized as innovators in the apparel industry. First they revolutionized American-made outerwear by being the first in the industry to sew a zipper on a jacket. They also benefited from the emergence and growing popularity of motorcycles. In 1928 Irving had a vision of what would become an American classic when he designed and produced the first motorcycle jacket. Wool linings made it warmer, heavy grade leather made it protective when necessary, and a zipper made it more wind and weather resistant. That classic leather jacket sold for just $5.50 at a Harley Davidson dealer on Long Island. According to the Schott web site, "The Perfecto was durable, rugged, and immediately embraced. To this new generation of 'bikers,' the Perfecto was a symbol of the excitement, adventure and danger that fueled their fascination with motorcycles." To accommodate sales growth, Schott Bros. moved its manufacturing operation to South Amboy, New Jersey.
Outfitting the Military: 1930s-40s
Schott Bros. quality was recognized by the U.S. Air Force prior to World War II. The company was commissioned to design and manufacture "bomber jackets" for Air Force pilots. In addition, Schott Bros. became a major supplier of the U.S. military forces fighting abroad with nylon flyers for the Air Force and pea coats for the Navy. A tradition of providing for the American military forces was begun, and it continued for 60 years.
In 1940 Schott again moved its manufacturing business--design, production and storage--this time to nearby Perth Amboy, New Jersey. By 1947 a second generation joined in managing the business--Irving's son Mel.
Big Screen Exposure: 1950s
Schott Bros. apparel made its big screen debut in 1954 when Marlon Brando wore a Perfecto jacket in the cult classic The Wild Ones. The Perfecto gained national exposure and instant popularity, but sales declined because school districts banned the jackets due to their association with youth rebelliousness. By that time the Schotts had decided to reserve the Perfecto label for only their finest motorcycle jackets. Sales figures soon turned around for the Perfecto jacket, however. The following year, sales increased after the death of James Dean; the "hood" who often donned a Perfecto, "catapulted the motorcycle jacket back in vogue," according to the Schott web site. The jacket retailed for $49.
Up until the 1960s, the Schott family's focus was on the production side of the business. Irving prided himself on knowing how to operate and repair every machine and tool in the factory. When Milton Perlman joined the company in the 1960s, however, Schott Bros. began to develop a vision that revolved around sales. Perlman was very involved in the business outside of the shop. He would visit stores that sold Schott apparel, listen to their feedback, and respond to it. Perlman's sales vision helped place Schott Bros. on a growth curve for several decades.
Developing Sales Markets: 1960s-80s
Along with Mel Schott, Perlman worked to develop new sales markets for Schott outerwear throughout the United States and abroad. By 1963 the company began marketing the Perfecto jacket in Europe. At home American teens and young adults could be seen in Schott's leather and fringe style vests. It was the 60s, and Schott was part of the unique fashion scene. Perlman also helped the company design and introduce the western leather fringe jacket as well as non-leather jackets. Because the fringe on the popular western jackets had to be cut by hand, the company soon invested in an automated fringe machine.
By the mid-1980s, Mel's son Michael and daughter Roz were on board with the family business, beginning a new generation of family leadership. In 1985 the company moved to a new location in Perth Amboy, a 250,000-square-foot building on Lehigh Street. It was the size of four square blocks. The following year Mel became president of Schott Bros., while 94-year-old Irving retained his title as chairman and CEO. Six years later Irving died, just months from his 100th birthday.
"It's hard to pinpoint exactly when black leather went from outlaw to chic," wrote Robin Updike in the Baltimore Sun. But that acceptance of an expanding leather jacket market would benefit Schott Bros. even though there were significantly more companies in the United States and abroad competing for leather consumers. Schott was committed to its history of quality handcrafted jackets made from the finest leather. That unwavering commitment to quality helped Schott maintain sales despite competition from inexpensive imports.
Expanding Globally: 1990s
By 1993 Schott Bros. had reached $60 million in sales worldwide. In addition to benefiting from worldwide distribution of its apparel through specialty stores on nearly every continent, Schott also gained from relationships with licensees in several countries. In the company's 80th year, Schott Bros. boasted 500 employees worldwide, who had helped produce 350,000 jackets. The Perfecto's price tag had grown to $300.
New apparel lines and a broader distribution market helped Schott achieve sales growth in the 90s. The company also introduced lines of handbags, belts, classically designed travel bags, and even Schott Perfecto school supplies. In addition, Schott brought back the traditional naval peacoat, but with a modern twist. The peacoat came in a variety of colors, rather than just the traditional navy blue. The classic melton wool naval peacoat was Schott's top seller in 1994. The company offered consumers a leather peacoat as well.
In 1994 Schott Bros. was again commissioned to supply the U.S. military. The Department of Defense contracted with Schott Bros. to manufacture jackets for the Air Force. The company unveiled its first women's line in 1997. The new line was the Rose Schott Collection, named for Irving's wife. Schott also expanded outerwear fabric selection, using wearnyl, fleece, and kings wool. Branching out beyond just the leather jacket market helped the company weather the cyclical nature of the leather industry. Because Schott had diversified over the years, the ups and downs of the leather market did not exert such a big impact on its bottom line.
Schott Bros. took a brief foray into the urban hip-hop market in 1998 when it acquired U.B. TUFF, a manufacturer of urban sportswear and outerwear for men and boys. It was Schott Bros. first acquisition, but it did not last long. The enterprise, which targeted a lower price customer base, quickly dissolved not long after it began.
During the late 1990s Schott began to broaden the production line through overseas manufacturing. Some garments just could not be produced at a competitive price in the U.S. plant. Nylon jackets, for example, were more labor intensive and less costly to produce abroad. The availability and quality of raw materials also had an impact on what Schott produced at home. The company put procedures in place to maintain the Schott standard of quality and attention to detail regardless of where the item was created. Generally, the apparel produced overseas were items new to the Schott collection. The company was committed, however, that its classic and signature styles would always be produced in the United States to ensure strict adherence to quality. Schott built relationships with licensees and manufacturing partners in Germany, France, China, and South America, and more recently in Russia.
Making Gains Abroad: 2000 and Beyond
In 2002 Schott Bros. began selling online. Because the Schott collection had grown so broad, the Internet store was one way for the company to make its entire line available to new and returning loyal customers. Most retail stores carried only a portion of the Schott Bros. apparel collection. Internet sales became a small but growing percentage of the company's sales. The Internet was also a way for Schott to connect with its customers. The home page linked to a Blog section where visitors were invited to "share the great things that have happened to you in a Schott jacket. ..."
The Schott Bros. brand had grown in popularity worldwide, especially in Europe where consumers often had a greater appreciation for the classic American styles. Brand recognition and sales were frequently higher in Europe and Asia than in the United States. In Japan, Schott Bros.' reversible sheepskin coat won first place in the "hot fashion contest" at the U.S. Apparel Show in Tokyo in 2002. It was part of the International Fashion Fair, the largest fashion trade show in Japan. The coat scored high both on design and material.
While Schott Bros. expanded its product line to include suede shirts and leather pants, the company regularly brought back replicas of vintage top sellers. In 2003 Schott re-released a limited edition replica of the original Perfecto jacket, a top-of-the-line motorcycle jacket made entirely in the United States. Despite the price tag of $475, sales were strong.
By 2004 more than half of Schott's production still took place domestically, where the company could turn out the products faster and the Schott family could be directly involved in the daily manufacturing process. Exports continued as a large percentage of Schott's annual sales. The Schott family's third and fourth generations were successfully managing and nurturing Irving's venture--with Roz Schott as president; her son Jason as chief marketing officer; Steve Conlin (Mel's son-in-law) as chief executive officer; and Michael's son Oren as chief production officer. (Michael Schott died in 1997 of pancreatic cancer. He had been company president since 1994.) Family members remained committed to knowing every facet of the business, just as great grandfather Irving had. They appeared to possess that same commitment to quality and attention to detail of their company founder.
For 2005, the company refocused outerwear lines into Schott Luxe, for better men's stores; Schott West, western wear; and Schott Work, work wear. The streamlined product lines were developed for a fall 2005 release. The leather jacket market remained strong for Schott, with sales up 15 percent in 2004. The company also planned to move to a smaller, newer facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, just ten miles from the current headquarters. The company sold its 100-year-old building as part of a city redevelopment project.
Principal Subsidiaries: Schott NYC Corp.
Principal Competitors: Vanson; Marc New York; Energie.
- Czabala, Nancy, "It's Schott to Be Good" Apparel Industry Magazine, Atlanta, January 1997, Vol. 58 , Issue 1, pp. 14-16.
- Hermann, Valli, "The Peacoat Resurfaces on a New Wave of Popularity," Austin American Statesman," December 1, 1994, p. E10.
- "The History of Schott NYC," http://www.in2schott.dk.history.htm.
- Interview with Jason Schott, Chief Marketing Officer, November 2004.
- Johnson, Marylin, "Falling for a Classic: Navy-Inspired Peacoat Makes a Casual Statement," Houston Chronicle, November 29, 2001, p. 3.
- Klara, Robert, "How to Be a Tough Guy (In One Easy Purchase)," US Airways Inflight Magazine, December 2004.
- "Michael Schott (Obituary)," Women's Wear Daily, March 7, 1997, p. 24.
- Parola, Robert, "Hot Schott," Daily News Record, January 23, 1989, p. 22.
- "U.B. Tuff Acquired by Schott Bros.," Business Wire New York, July 16, 1998, p. 1.
- Updike, Robin, "Black Leather, Long the Mark of the Wild Ones, Can Now Be Seen at the Opera," Baltimore Sun, November 25, 1993, p. 7F.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.67. St. James Press, 2005.