Meet the Maker: Gitman Vintage
October 14 2013
Gitman Brothers Vintage, est. 1978, is an American heritage sport-shirt line that pays tribute to the past. Located in Pennsylvania, it is one of the last remaining shirt makers that bases its manufacturing entirely in America. We’re bringing the guys behind the brand down to Richmond for a special Meet the Maker event, complete with local beer, BBQ, and music.
We chatted with the guys about the line, its rich history and American manufacturing, and how they keep making the coolest shirts, season after season.
Can you tell us about the long history and legacy of Gitman?
Max Gitman, a native from Brooklyn, moved his production in the early 1930s from NYC to Ashland, PA, setting up shop in 1932 (along with a handful of other shirt makers who left the big city and relocated in the same area due to rising costs). For decades, Max made product for various brands at his Ashland Shirt & Pajama facility and it wasn’t until his sons, Alfred and Sheldon, fully took over that Gitman Bros. was officially launched, circa 1978. When our company, IAG, purchased Gitman in the mid-90s, we left everything intact – same building, same sewers, same ways of producing. In short, the legacy continues to this day, with some workers having been there for over 40 years.
Why is manufacturing in America so important to you?
When we have a good year, the factory is happy, and since the town is made up of the factory workers, you feel good about supporting directly a small piece of America. At the end of the day, feeling good about what you do is important. It’s that simple.
How do your shirts stand the test of time and live on past trends and seasons?
You need to appreciate what goes into the shirt. I remember during my first trip to Japan a client showed me his Gitman pinpoint Oxford button-down that he purchased in 1981. It was worn, but totally wearable – in fact, he just got it back from laundry. I like that story because it demonstrated to me the perennial aspect of what the Gitman shirt stood for – something I place right up there with Alden 990s and Levi’s 501s: the real deal straight up.
What is most important when designing and manufacturing shirts?
With manufacturing: quality, quality, quality; with design: to think about multiple platforms simultaneously; that is, what works in France will not necessarily appeal to Japan, and also to take some risks with where you see design going. For many seasons, plaid was the rage; then prints became the new plaid. Playing with what’s next is important – as is constantly engaging yourself on how to make the design of the collection as exciting and delightful to the consumer as possible.
What goes into choosing fabrics? How do you find such interesting and unique prints?
There’s a lot of editing, more now than before. For each season there are staples, e.g. seersucker, madras for spring/summer, flannel, corduroy for autumn/winter, but you need to keep changing up the iterations of these classics. Visiting mills, keeping files with photos and notes on future likes/dislikes, twice a year trips to Japan and major fabric shows in Europe – these are just some of the ongoing things I/we do to in the fabric evolving process. Many times we also create fabrics and prints from the ground up – chambray/oxford blends, new overdye colors and prints and lots of one-off prints designed in house or in tandem with a mill.
Do you have a favorite print from any collection?
That’s a tough one, prints and plaids and solids. I have a favorite madras from S/S 2009, called 6137-99 – an earth-tone gem; my Grand Slambrays from SS11 – tennis court surface color chambrays; the shaggy oxfords from AW12; the man-camp outdoors print from AW12; the sailor pin-ups from SS13; and the snow leopard head from AW13.
Tell us about Ashland, Pennsylvania. What would you do on a typical day off there?
I live in NYC, so I wouldn’t typically spend my day off in Ashland, but if I were to do so I think it would go something like… check out the Museum of Anthracite Mining, hit up the Gitman Bros. warehouse store, have lunch at the Mineshaft Cafe, followed by a beer at the Drunken Monkey to wash it down.
What’s next for Gitman? What are you looking forward to?
Besides my first trip to Richmond, VA?!? Visiting more stores this fall (both in the US and Japan), shipping SS14 to the world and showing AW14 in Europe this January.
Join us in our Carytown store on Friday, October 18 from 7 – 9pm for a Meet the Maker event with Gitman Vintage. Come hang out with the guys behind the brand, design your own Gitman shirt, enjoy local food and drinks, and music by DJ Big Red. We will also be releasing eight new exclusive shirts, made with fabric imported from Japan and featuring “blues” prints on indigo ground and tie-dyes hand-treated on poplin cotton.
RSVP by Thursday, October 17th to 804.325.4530 or firstname.lastname@example.org