Cleveland entrepreneur Allan Jones acquired the 134-year-old Hardwick Clothes in June and vowed to pump new energy into the once famous company.
Jones’ first announcement after taking ownership was that he had hired Bruce Bellusci, formerly the executive vice president of Sales at Hart Schaffner & Marx, as the new Hardwick CEO.
Hardwick, known for its famous “Sewn in the South” slogan, now has another new face — Jeffery Diduch, who Jones named chief creative officer at the company.
Diduch previously served as the vice president of Technical Design at Hart Schaffner & Marx since 2010, and was responsible for all aspects of pattern making and grading, technical specifications and garment construction.
Bellusci noted that Hardwick was at one time legendary for having the top blazer in the world and was confident that the arrival of Diduch would help the company quickly regain that status.
“Jeffery is one of the most talented new designers in the United States,” Bellusci said. “He combines the unique ability of expert technical design with a leading creative ability for developing today’s American fashion. He will soon be in the ranks of USA’s top designers!”
Diduch said he agrees with Bellusci that the blazer will be at the top of the Hardwick pyramid.
“I believe that Hardwick Clothes will soon offer the best blazer in the world,” Diduch said. “We are going to evaluate each step and part of the garment to determine which ones add value and not just cost. Buying a Hardwick blazer will mean you are getting the best value for your money possible.”
Jones noted that Diduch, who served on the Executive Committee of the International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives (IACDE), had won five Global International Design Awards from the organization.
Diduch has authored articles on tailoring and sewing in the IACDE's centenary book, “Shaping the Past and the Future of Tailored Clothing,” as well as in “The Rake” and “Threads” magazines.
The Discovery Channel also featured Diduch on its “How It’s Made” and “MANufactured” television programs and he outfitted NBC’s commentators for the winter Olympics.
Diduch said his love for clothing design started in childhood. His mother taught him to sew as a way to keep him out of trouble. He crafted his first tuxedo in high school and admits he still prefers to make clothing by hand when his schedule allows.
Prior to his time at Hart Schaffner & Marx, Diduch worked for Empire Clothing Ltd. He developed the Peter Millar tailored clothing collection and was responsible for all aspects of design for the tailored collections for brands like Kenneth Cole and Tommy Hilfiger.
The designer says craftsmanship will be the driving component of Hardwick’s return to the top of the industry.
“The most important thing we can do at Hardwick is foster growth and a sense of pride,” he said. “Every person, from the operators on the sewing floor to the people in the shipping department, have a part in creating each garment and the best way to produce top quality is for each of them to take pride in the fact that ‘I made that.’”
Diduch also plans to focus on the fit of his Hardwick designs.
“Fit is the most important element of any garment,” he said. “A $400 suit that fits well will always look better than a $4,000 suit that fits poorly.”
Jones said he will spend $10 million in advertising alone this year to promote the Hardwick brand and the new company website — Hardwick.com. Jones paid $1.9 million for Hardwick’s assets through Jones CapitalCorp LLC in June.
Hardwick was founded in 1880 by Cleveland businessman C.L. Hardwick.
Jones is best known as the founder of Check Into Cash, which he started in 1993. He has numerous other brands, including LendingFrog.com, U.S. Money Shops, Buy Here Pay Here USA and LoanbyPhone.com. He is one of the largest title lenders in the country and has become one of the largest Internet lenders through CheckIntoCash.com.
“Hardwick is the oldest business of its kind in America and I will work with Jeffery and Bruce to make the brand famous again worldwide,” Jones said. “There is no doubt, the pendulum is swinging back to ‘Made in America.’”
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