In 1909, Joseph Haspel Sr. opened Haspel
, a textile factory specializing in lightweight men’s suits. Haspel — known colloquially as “the Factory” by neighbors and workers — was located at the intersection of Broad St. and St. Bernard Ave. until production moved to Tylertown, Mississippi, where it stayed until the brand was bought out by the Palm Beach Company in the late 1970s.
Joseph Haspel saw a niche in the market for manufacturing suits that could withstand the heat and the humidity of the New Orleans summertime — suits for working men of all color collars. He once famously went for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean, fully clothed in one of his suits to demonstrate its ability to withstand moisture. Reportedly, he hung the suit up to dry, and threw it back on for an evening engagement. The suit retained its silhouette, and Haspel was on the fashion map.
While Haspel’s suits have moved on from true wash-and-wear styles (most suiting pieces should be dry cleaned), the clothing line has evolved since the label was reacquired by the Haspel family in the nineties. Laurie Haspel Aronson, Joseph Haspel Sr.’s great-granddaughter and president and CEO of Haspel, relaunched the brand in 2014 from its new home base in Baton Rouge with a reboot of preppy silhouettes in classic navy and tan, with a few punches of bright color like Kelly green and crimson. Pops of vivid hues have shown up throughout subsequent seasons.
“We had to take everything back in house — design, branding, marketing — it really needed to come back to the family,” she says. “It brings authenticity back to the brand. We are the people who understand what the name means.”
Haspel still prides itself on men’s business suits, formal wear and its signature seersucker.
“We’ve always been known for our tailored clothing,” she says. “It’s in our DNA.”
Aronson and her design team sprinkle a little innovation on time-honored traditions. Since the brand’s relaunch in Spring 2014, Aronson has strived to create a Haspel lifestyle, adding contemporary touches to product lines such as suit separates and sportswear, including casual knit shirts in bright colors and bold prints. She and her team plan to expand into other clothing categories such as ties, pocket squares, footwear and fragrance. The suiting separates especially are popular with younger shoppers enjoying the tailored blazer over denim look. Even seersucker suiting is sold separately, and it is available in colors other than the conventional navy or tan stripe.
“These are reflections of the times,” Aronson says. “Wearing separates is on trend. We want to be a multi-generational brand, with apparel for young men in their twenties shopping for their first interview suit, and for older gentleman looking for something to wear to a social club function.”
Haspel’s most popular addition to their clothing line is a new take on seersucker fabric. The tone-on-tone pattern alternates stripes of black with navy in the same puckered material that makes the fabric so lightweight. Haspel’s “Gravier” sport coat and trousers and “Krewe” tuxedo are available in black and navy seersucker. The latter is dressed up with a black satin collar and a black grosgrain stripe down the pant leg. The look is so sharp and appealing that the staff of the Ace Hotel collaborated with Haspel to create their own line of work wear for hotel staff in the same material, in unisex cuts designed to flatter men and women.
Haspel also collaborates with regional and national businesses to create limited runs of branded items like aviator sunglasses
by AO Eyewear, a vintage hardware wristwatch
from Brooklyn Watch Co. and a line of seersucker-inspired men’s accessories
from New Orleans’ own Mignon Faget.
“We originated the seersucker suit, so we want to make sure it’s always a part of what we do,” she says. “Even our (non-seersucker) suits have seersucker-patterned trim, so you know you’re still wearing Haspel.”
Aronson will be in New Orleans for a meet-and-greet at Rubensteins
at Canal St. and St. Charles Ave. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 21. The department store will also host a Seersucker Social 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April 21-22, a trunk show presenting exclusive seersucker separates in advance of Friday evening’s Sippin’ in Seersucker
event at The Shops at Canal Place
. Cocktails will be provided by Sazerac Rye.