By Kathleen Nicholson Webber
Originally posted on New Jersey Monthly on March 22, 2016.
Jason Schott, 42, spent his childhood sweeping the floors of his family’s New Jersey coat factory. Now, as COO for the Union-based company, Schott NYC, he still loves the smell of leather as he walks the floor, managing day-to-day operations of the brand his great, grandfather Irving Schott started with his brother Jack in his Lower East Side apartment in 1913. Irving first made a raincoat; later, the brothers were commissioned by the Air Force to make bomber jackets and pea coats for soldiers in World War II. After the war, the pair created a classic motorcycle jacket that landed on the back of Marlon Brando in The Wild One and became James Dean’s signature look. Both styles are still in the line today. In the ’70s and ’80s, the brand, known for its rebel look, became a favorite of rock and punk artists like Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, Blondie, Joan Jett and the Sex Pistols. Today’s superstar fans include Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna.
But mere mortals have loved Schott’s jackets for years, and now a new legion of fans have discovered the collection. “For years people saw us as a jacket company. [We’re] now a lifestyle brand with sweaters, shirts, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts,” says Schott. He’s even collaborated with designer Ralph Lauren, who visited Schott’s New York store one day and admired the vintage jackets on display. Schott worked on a few styles with the designer under the Double RL label, which retailed in both companies’ stores.
The majority of Schott’s time is spent in Union at the offices and factory with his mother, the president, and his uncle, the CEO, and 100 employees. “We invite people to tour our factory, and they are amazed at the amount of work that goes into one jacket,” he explains. It takes about eight hours to complete one, and 40 to 50 hands touch it. Prices range from cloth coats at $175 to leathers that run as high as $1,300. When many companies moved production overseas for cheaper prices, Schott resisted.
“In places like Japan, they’ve appreciated made-in-America brands for a long time. In the last five years, I think Americans are doing the same. Through our website and social media, we have told the story of how the product is made, and customers are interested in that. I think the trend in fashion is supporting heritage brands, things that hold up over time.”