What do these vintage labels have in common: Betty Barclay, Butte Knit, R & K Originals, Youth Guild and Jonathan Logan? At one time all of these labels were popular divisions of the first large apparel conglomerate, Jonathan Logan. These labels were on some of the most popular dresses and sportswear from the 1950’s through 1970’s, and today they are sought out for their style and quality by vintage collectors and retro style lovers.
When researching these labels and many others, the Jonathan Logan story comes up as part of their histories. At the beginning is the story of David Schwartz (1897 - 1985), a gifted business man, who entered the apparel industry at a young age, rising in manufacturing until he was ready to open his own company with $2,500 borrowed to buy new sewing machines at only 19 years old in 1918. He would partner with a friend, producing women’s dresses under such labels as “Tru Size Dress Co”, “Gladdy Dress Co” and Gladdy Tru Size” until about 1937, when he launched the “Jonathan Logan” company alone.
The first Jonathan Logan company had 10 people on its staff and was located in New York City. By 1954, the company had grown so large that it had to move to a new plant in Bergen, New Jersey. This was a dress company, producing apparel for young women 15 through 25 years old. This was a new niche in the industry that had been expanding since the 1930’s.
He is said to have produced the first rayon dresses for sale at $4 and $5 each. In 1949, he unionized his workers into the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union, so his products after that date will contain that union label.
During this time, Schwartz was adding small labels to his core business, enlarging the company’s scope. In 1960 it became the first women’s apparel company to be on the New York Stock Exchange. At this time he entered knit apparel with “Butte Knit”, a brand with both a dress and separates line. His business sold $100 million in 1963, and was the first women’s wear company to make that record.
Schwartz stepped down from his position in 1964, turning it over to his son Richard who was only 25 at the time, but was able to run the company as chairman and maintain the high rate of sales his father had, with $203 million in sales in 1968. At that time there were 42 manufacturing plants in both the US and abroad. Many of the knits were created in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the Butte Knit and Act III lines.
To gage the size of this company, in 1969 it had over 24 divisions (labels), sold to 20,000 retailers, owned dozens of showrooms, owned 12 manufacturing plants and used 14 more to produce their lines.
The entire business was bought out in 1984 by United Merchant and Manufacturers.
Probably the best know designer who worked for the company was Elizabeth “Liz” Claiborne who designed for the “Youth Guild” division from 1960 to 1975, leaving to start her own business at that time. The Jonathan Logan label had two well known designers: Doris Varnum and Jeanne Carr. Both designers often had their names included in advertisements and promotions, creating the allure of a designer produced collection for this junior label.
Doris Varnum appears in ads during the 1940’s. In an interview she stated that her designs “just happen” as she saw ideas in many things. She was born in California and lived in Los Angeles where her husband taught at Los Angeles City College before WWII. Her career began in fashion modeling (she was an auburn haired petite size) and the design position followed naturally for her. When working, she started her designs with a unique fabric, then created an idea from that. “Junior dresses are a style, not an age” she would comment.
Jeanne Carr would follow as the Jonathan Logan designer. She also began her career as a model, later working for the 1955 Coty award designer for the label “Sportwhirl”, Jeanne Campbell (an interesting designer as well). Campbell began that label in 1951, and hired her staff of 10 at that time. As a young designer, she had worked previously for “Loomtogs” from 1946 to 1951. If we look at Campbell’s career, she did not hire assistants until 1951, so Carr would have had to work for her after that date. This leaves the mid-1950’s as Carr’s probable start with Jonathan Logan as designer. Advertising with her name appears in 1956 and shows as late as 1960. She also prepared a patent document in 1956, so we know she was working there by that year.
The following is a short list of the most popular and wide selling labels that were produced by the Jonathan Logan company. Most of these brands began as regional or local small businesses before being bought out by the company and later produced as a division.
Act III, Alice Stuart, Amy Adams, Beach Party, Betty Barclay, Bleeker Street, Butte Knit, Davis of Boston, Etienne Aigner, Harbor Master, Immerman Corp, Jonathan Logan, Junior Accent, Misty Harbor, Modern Juniors, R & K Originals, Rose Marie Reid, Trebor Knit, Turtle Bay, Villager, YouthGuild
The dresses shown in this article are currently listed for sale in my Pintucks Style shop on Etsy.
Fashion & Merchandising Fads, F. Hoffman, B. Ramirez, 1994
Herald Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina, April 5, 1970
Jewish Virtual Library.org
Luther, Marylu, article: January 9, 1960
Pittsburgh Press, B. Byron, May 20, 1944
The Self-made Man: Success and Stress, American Style, Isadore Barmash, 1969
This is an original article on Jonathan Logan published on Pintuckstyle.blogspot.com. The contents of this article are the intellectual property of this blog and the author.
Please do not copy any content, written or photos, to another blog or digital media without contacting me first. I will ask that you link back to this article and give reference to this source within your feature. If you are using content for a research paper or project, please link back to this page in the traditional academic format, thank you! Jennifer Orsini