Garment Industry

Displaying 1 - 10 of 52

Interview with Steve Dvorak about his experience working in the Kansas City garment industry and about his career with Youthcraft. He discusses the history of the company from its founding by Leon Karosen, and its merger with Stern-Slegman-Prins, a company which Chick's father Robert worked for; the manufacturing and sales processes, including traveling with racks of coats to visit stores throughout the country. He recalls the different facilities from which the company operated, including buildings in North Kansas City, the downtown Garment District, and near 31st and Gillham, and discusses the company's national profile and mergers, as well as changes in the garment industry over the ensuing decades, including the shift to department stores and other large chains.

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Interview with Martin Unger about his life and experience in the Kansas City garment industry. He discusses his family, his immigration to the United States from Germany in 1939, his experience in tailoring, and his interest in designing women's clothes. He recalls working as a designer in New York for 41 years until coming to Kansas City to work for ladies' coat and suit manufacturer Youthcraft, and discusses the decline of the local and domestic clothing industry, attributing the change to overseas manufacturing and the rise in big box chain retail. His wife, Ann Unger, also shares memories, and the couple shares photographs of their family and examples of Martin's designs.

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Interview with Eugene Salvay about his life and his family's experience with the Kansas City garment industry, with additional information provided by his nephew, Craig Solvay. He discusses his childhood in the 1920s, and his education in aircraft engineering which lead to job in World War II working on B-25s at the assembly plant in the Fairfax District in spite of antisemitism in the hiring process. He recalls his father's work as designer at Fashionbilt before moving on to mail-order company National Bellas Hess, and operating his own business designing custom coats. He also shares stories about his family roots in Lithuania, his Jewish identity and ancestry, and meeting Harry Truman in the 1930s. Solvay also mentions his participation in developing Israeli aviation and his relationship with Moshe Arens.

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Interview with Davida Singer Pessen about her life and experience working at Kansas City department stores and other clothing retailers. She discusses her start circa 1960 at Klein's and Rothschild's, continuing in retail through moves to Omaha and St. Louis, and returning to the work in Kansas City as a single mother. She recalls working in a various of department stores and boutiques at Metcalf South and The Landing, and moving in to work at multiple locations of the fine clothing store Woolf Brothers. She also discusses issues including price markup, demand differences from one outlet of a store to another, the decline and ultimate closure of the Woolf Brothers company, and her retirement in 2010.

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Interview with Mary Lou Chalmers about her experience working in Kansas City's garment industry from the late 1950s through late 1970s.. She discusses enrolling in the fashion design program at Kansas City Art Institute, as well as taking courses at Fanny Fern Fitzwater School of Fashion Illustration and the Isabelle Boldin School of Fashion, and then working in design and pattern-making at area garment companies such as Nelly Don and Gay Gibson. She describes the process of designing and making clothing, her experiences at numerous companies, the perks of working at Nelly Don, and times that her designs were featured in national magazines. She also discusses the decline of the garment fashion industry in the 1970s, the homogenization of shopping, and the shift to manufacturing in Asia.

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Interview with Margie Bercu and her daughter Barbara Bloch about their family's history with Kansas City's garment district, and discuss what garment design and manufacturing still exist in Kansas City at the time of the interview. Barbara discusses her father Archie's start at Maurice Coat & Suit Company and later transition to Lan-Mar Sporting Goods, which manufactured little league baseball uniforms, basketball uniforms and other athletic apparel. Lan-Mar later spun off a company called Cotton Duck which manufactured restaurant uniforms and related apparel. The women also discuss Archie's education and military service, Barbara's continuing work with retail and restaurant uniforms through the 1980s, oursourcing of manufacturing, and remaining American textile manufacturing. The women also note several local companies continuing to work in garment production into the 2000s.

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Interview with Suzie Aron about her family history in Kansas City's garment industry, beginning with her grandfather Hyman Gordon's immigration to Topeka, Kansas, and later to Kansas City. She discusses Jewish prevalence in the industry, and her family's Frances Gee Garment Company which focused primarily on uniforms for nurses and other woman-dominated professions - a direction taken because it was easier to work with all white fabric. She discusses the company being one of the first with overseas production facilities, having opened factories in Puerto Rico and Japan, as well as other aspects of the company's operations and union relationships, including her experience working on designing and branding uniforms for the fast food industry, work which eventually became the focus of the company.

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Interview with historic preservationist Sally Schwenk about the importance, and difficulty, of preserving and sharing the history of Kansas City's garment industry. She discusses the importance of Kansas City's location as a railroad hub to its early industry, the boom in the industry following World War I, the impact of unionization, and changes in the location and design of facilities, and the later decline of the local industry. She also describes the Garment District surrounding 8th and Broadway, the loss of buildings and connectivity to other neighborhoods due to post-war freeway construction and demolition, and the challenges of running the Historic Garment District Museum.

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Interview with Eddie Jacobs about his life and experience in the Kansas City garment industry. He recalls his family history, including his parents' immigrations from Poland and Russia, and starting out in the garment industry with his father and brother manufacturing children's clothes. He discusses their later transition into maternity wear, selling to department stores and mail order businesses, and also notes he opened fabric stores with his mother-in-law. He also discusses their relationship with the garment workers union, describes their staff and their small-town manufacturing, and notes that they once made up about 20% of the maternity wear market before closing in the 1980s. He shares photographs and notes maternity wear design elements.

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Interview with Seymour Weiner about his life and experience working in Kansas City's garment industry. Weiner recalls his Polish immigrant parents owning an alterations and pressing business, going to work for garment industry "trimmings" supplier Hammer Brothers as a young man, starting a company called Krest Originals, and discusses the business model of an "item house," which manufactured a limited number of items. He discusses the shift in the marketplace from locally owned specialty stores to department stores and national chains, the change in the labor pool in the 1960s, the role of labor unions in the industry, and changes in the relationships between businesses and banks over the decades. After closing his factory, Weiner went to work in sales for Betty Rose Coats, and recounts financial and fashion reasons for the decline in the local and domestic garment industries.

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