Monday, February 07, 2011

George Carmel, Carmel Brothers, and Carmel Original

A few weeks ago, I wrote a short blog post about the George Carmel Coat and Suit Company. The post didn't have a lot of details, but captured the interest of several people. I have since found much more about the company through hours of in-depth research.


George Carmel was born in Poland in 1893. He served as a tailor's apprentice as a boy in Poland and came to the US in 1905 at age 11. After arriving in New York, George went to work in a cloak and suit factory. By 1915, he was a designer, and in 1916 he joined with his three oldest brothers to form Carmel Brothers. The company was known as one of the highest quality coat and suit manufacturers in the U.S, on par with Ben Zuckerman and Handelsman & Raiff.


The garments made by Carmel Brothers were very expensive and were carried by only the finest stores including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales.


Sometime in the mid 1940s, the name of the company was changed from Carmel Brothers to Carmel Originals. At the height of the business, Carmel Originals employed about 300 stitchers in the New York factory.


From 1929 - 1953, George Carmel served on the Board of Governors of the Industrial Council of Cloak, Suit, and Skirt Manufacturers, Inc. In that capacity, he helped to negotiate agreements between labor and management in the industry.


In 1950, George formed his own company, George Carmel, Inc. with his two sons, Lawrence and Monroe. The company was liquidated in 1953 due to George's poor health, but Larry and Monroe re-established it in 1954 with their father serving in an advisory capacity. Larry had joined Carmel Brothers in 1938 at age 17, when he took two suits across the country to sell to stores.


George Carmel died on Thursday June 9, 1955 at age 62. His son, Monroe, left George Carmel, Inc. shortly thereafter to join as a partner in Flaghouse, Inc. Larry continued the business his father had started. In the late 1950s, as suits fell out of favor, he began to produce dresses with matching jackets and dresses with matching coats to keep the business going.


While George Carmel, Inc. continued to be a fashion leader through the early 1960s, by 1964 fashion was moving away from the classic styles the company was known for and women no longer cared as much about hand tailoring and quality clothing that would last for years. Fashion became trend based and style cycles became shorter and shorter. In addition, the experienced factory workers were aging and retiring and they were impossible to replace. Perhaps most telling, though is a short excerpt from a newspaper article dated September 1964 about the changes in fashion:

Larry Carmel of George Carmel, Inc., manufacturer of fine women's suits can't see how designers are going to get away with promoting pants for public wear. "I can't believe they really mean pants to be worn on city streets. I feel American women will never take this trend seriously," he says.


Sadly, George Carmel, Inc. closed it's doors in March of 1968, after shipping the last spring orders to stores. What a loss to American fashion!

Please note: Biographical information about George Carmel is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.