polo ralph lauren niño Is to Close Its Last Shop in U
Sulka, the men’s haberdashery that once counted the Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Henry Ford and Clark Gable among its customers, will close its Madison Avenue store, the last of its shops in the United States, real estate sources said yesterday.
Founded more than a century ago and long renowned for its hand tailored shirts and ties, Sulka changed hands several times and was once owned by Syms, the chain of discount clothing retailers. It is now owned by Vendme Luxury Group, a division of Compagnie Financire Richemont, of Switzerland.
Vendme, which also owns upscale brands like Alfred Dunhill and Cartier, this year has shuttered Sulka stores in Paris and London and six in this country, including a boutique in the Waldorf Astoria and a store on Park Avenue and 55th Street.
The only store still open in the United States is the one at Madison Avenue and 69th Street, in the former Westbury Hotel, which was converted into condominium apartments two years ago.
Sulka is expected to move out early next year, according to officials at Chelsfield, the company that developed the condominiums.
Sulka and Richemont executives refused to comment yesterday.
Retailing experts said that as younger shoppers came to prefer designer labels or Italian lines like Ermenegildo Zegna and Brioni, Sulka’s appeal became increasingly limited.
”That business was geared to a generation that’s passing on,” said Walter K. Levy, the managing director for retail trends and positioning at Kurt Salmon Associates, a consulting company. ”I don’t think the younger customer follows the tradition of a men’s house.”
To be successful today, a men’s wear line needs to be associated with a famous personality, said Paul Wilmot, a fashion publicist.
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”If you spend that kind of money,” he said, ”you want Calvin Klein’s name on it. You want to see Ralph Lauren.
When Amos Sulka, a traveling salesman and retailer from Johnstown, Pa., teamed up with Leon Wormser, a custom shirt maker born in Alsace Lorraine, to open the first A. Sulka Company store on lower Broadway in 1895, their initial customers were husky firefighters and police officers who found it hard to find shirts that fit properly. But eventually the store attracted wealthy customers by using their butlers as walking advertisements for its merchandise. In 1904, Sulka opened a store in Paris.
A few years later, the company began operating its own laundry to shrink the cotton used in the shirts and wash off the workers’ fingerprints. In 1917, the store began taking in customers’ laundry so that they would not have to risk damaging their shirts at ordinary laundries. That service, which lasted for several decades, enabled the company to weather the Great Depression.
For many years, the company primarily used fabrics woven at its own mill in Lyon, France.
Always a citadel of conservative dress, Sulka was also known in the early 1960’s for offbeat luxury items like his and her vicua dressing gowns and leopard skin gloves lined with beaver.
Later, the company managed to survive another serious challenge this time from a new direction in fashion emphasizing the flamboyant. The company broadened its line without radically altering its timeless image.