Q&A w/ Gerry & Stu

Gerald & Stewart Webber, present day owners/operators of Fidelity Sportswear, have been involved with the company for as long as they can remember.  We were thrilled to get the chance to catch up with them (running between the factory and their offices downstairs) to hear first hand about the Webber family’s history, starting with Gerry & Stu’s father, Edward Webber.

 

Stewart Webber (left) & Gerald Webber (right)

Stewart Webber (left) & Gerald Webber (right)

 

When did your father first join Fidelity Sportswear?

Gerry:  There was a prior owner named Joe Menino. My father was working as a salesman for a trucking company and an apparel company because trucking was very important to get the goods to the stores. I’m going to guess that this occurred …about 66 years ago.  I was three or four years old and I was at one of the original meetings. It was held right near an elevator shaft in a building on Harrison Avenue where Fidelity Sportswear actually started, which is now part of the SOWA district in Boston. After that [Fidelity] went to 1140 Washington Street, which was kind of interesting because the building was maybe about a block away from where Joe Menino and Tony Burnetta were when the company was started, one as a stitcher and one of them as a leather cutter. So I would say 66 years ago is when my dad joined the company as a salesman.
Stu:  The company was already going as a small loft and doing specific orders for customers as opposed to having an actual line [when my dad got involved].  A customer of theirs for one reason or another wasn’t able to or didn’t want to take some merchandise that Joe Menino needed to sell because they had invested money in the materials and labor. Somehow there was a connection made to my father who was a salesman for another company.  They invited him in and showed him the merchandise. He looked in it an said “Yeah, I can sell it.” A few days later he came back with an order for all of the goods.  He said, “If you make more of it, I can sell more of it,” and that kind of developed the company into making up goods in a line versus being a contractor making goods for a specific order.

 

Edward Webber

Edward Webber

 

How did your father’s role change over the years?

G:  In 1961 one of the original partners whose name was Anothony Burnetta decided he wanted to leave the business and my dad bought in as a full partner at that time.  So 1961 was when my dad became a partner in the company, but prior to that he was involved in many aspects of the business.

S : Originally, in that process prior to ’61, my father worked with Joe Menino and obviously Tony Burnetta and developed the sales for the company.  He was the only salesman for the company and developed strong sales through New England and New York. And really, wherever he went he seemed to not only have customers, but they also became friends. And the relationship was so mutual and respectful between both Joe Menino and my father. For Joe Menino, when his partner wanted to quit, it became a natural thing to offer to my father to actually buy in. So he really continued to sell Joe Menino. By and large, he [Joe] was handing a lot of the inside and my father did all of the sales. But because you weren’t as busy full time [with sales], my father would come in and actually be working in whatever needed to be done inside the factory at that point. So he not only sold, but he would come in and make sure goods were being made correctly, help with shipping and whatever else needed to be done on the inside.

Describe your first involvement in the company.

G: Boy, I think my first involvement was at 10 or 11 years old. I would come in and pack coats and ship ’em out. So that sort of shows you the integral nature of the family from the earliest days because we would ship and we would pack coats. I remember coming home from my senior prom — I must have been 17 years old — and I rolled in at about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and at 6 o’clock in the morning I was up because we had to press coats in the morning. So I was on the pressing machine at 7 o’clock in the morning pressing coats for the shipments that had to be made.
S: My memory is I was in the shipping room but I had a broom in my hand sweeping and cleaning. That’s my earliest memories, yeah. :)
G: But it’s also interesting, our daughters were also involved in the business — and I really only learned about this maybe 5 or 6 years ago after my dad passed on — when my youngest daughter came in to work, my father would have her sharpen his pencils and she would get paid a dollar to sharpen each pencil and she thought that was the greatest part of all. Course the other granddaughters didn’t get paid and they were very upset when they heard about this. *laughs*

Did you ever expect to build a brand label named after you? How do you feel about it?
G: We sort of laugh at ourselves sometimes when people ask how we came up with the name Gerald & Stewart. It probably would have been the last name we ever would have come up with.  This really came to us from Japan where we’ve done business for over 30 years.

Tell us about the Fidelity Owl.
G: Who?

The Fidelity Owl.
S: Who? *big chuckles*
G: I guess the Fidelity owl came out of a period of time when, except for the Geico that is so prominent now, it was not uncommon to have some animal or some bird associated with a lot of products. I had no influence on that whatsoever. The tagline for Fidelity used to be, “Be wise. Buy Fidelity” and by was spelt b-u-y… It was a subliminal message.  I’d have to blame Joe Menino and Anthony Berdetta because my dad inherited it as well. I would say it was in the early age. The early days.

 

Fidelity Sportswear Owl circa 1950

Fidelity Sportswear Owl, circa 1950.

 

 

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE FIDELITY FACTORY

Mornings begin early at the Fidelity factory.  Brothers Gerry & Stu usually arrive by 5:00 am to allow themselves a few quiet hours with a hot cup of Folger’s coffee in hand to prepare before the day begins.  The production teams arrives by 7:00 am and the second floor sewing studio quickly begins humming away.  By 7:30 am the office crew rolls in and the day is fully underway.

Fidelity has been housed in its lovely warehouse in Everett, MA for over 30 years under the direction of brothers Gerry & Stu Webber.  Before that, the factory was located in Boston’s very own South End.

 

Gerry Webber (right) working with Lenny (left) in the cutting room. | Photography : Shane Godfrey

Gerry Webber (right) working with Lenny (left) in the cutting room. | Photography : Shane Godfrey

The Webber family has witnessed Fidelity’s 70 year growth almost in it’s entirety.  Gerry & Stu’s father, Edward Webber, was one of the original partners when Fidelity Sportswear was founded.  He and his sons have put their lives into making Fidelity Sportswear into what it is today.  They have all the pride in the world for their American heritage and they have dedicated themselves to providing high quality, made in USA outerwear for the world to enjoy.

Fidelity’s longevity can be attributed to one simple unifying goal : keep things simple.  Simple design, simple materials, simple workspace.  It’s all here in Everett, MA.  Hopefully for many more years to come.

For more information on the Fidelity factory, please visit our factory page.  For a factory tour information, please contact us!

 

Wool cross section | Photography: Shane Godfrey

Wool cross section | Photography: Shane Godfrey

 

Q&A w/ Photographer Shane Godfrey

Shane Godfrey

Shane Godfrey in the Fidelity factory.

Artist & photographer Shane Godfrey‘s beautiful shots of everyday life caught our attention immediately.  Apart from the aw14 lookbook he shot for the Gerald & Stewart collection this fall, Shane has a whole host of projects and personal work that deserve some major applause.  Despite his busy schedule, we had a window of opportunity to catch up and hear about his work, dreams, ambitions and take on life in New England.

How do you like working in Somerville?
Living and working in Somerville has been one of the best things for my personal and business practices. There is a large community of artists and like minded people here who fuel my creativity and inspire me to work hard every day. I moved here four years ago, only knowing a few people, and now I have 30 or 40 friends who all live within a half mile radius of our house. It’s centrally located and a quick drive to Boston where the museums and galleries are.

You seem to manage a healthy balance between your personal & professional photography work. Do you find this difficult?
It has been a struggle since getting out of school in 2009 to strike a balance between running a photography business while still maintaining rigor in my own artistic practices. I think that I have found a lot of ways to make personal work while at commercial jobs as well as finding a few days a month to be able to work on my ongoing projects. I currently have a few projects that I work on whenever I have a day or a few hours to myself. It is not always easy, but I am constantly reading, listening, and watching a variety of different media to always keep me engaged in my ongoing artistic practices.

Tell us about the New Hampshire Project. When was it started and what is it about?
My senior year of college I had to put together a senior thesis, much like in other degree programs, which ended with a jury of 12 or so artists and professors critiquing my work as well as a gallery show. It was 2008 and we were dead smack in the middle of an election and the recession. The southern half of New Hampshire is an interesting place where things never seem to move forward. In a way, these people and places are stuck in time, and I identified with that. New Hampshire has this combination of mass tourism along with commuter culture. I’m interested in what is left behind during the day when everyone is at work. Who are the people who live in these towns, commuter or not, and how do they identify with the place they reside, or visit? It has been 5 years now and I don’t see myself slowing down at all. I continue to photograph and make time to photograph in New Hampshire as much as possible and am interested in the ways that the residents, as well as myself, identify with this place.

www.shanegodfrey.com

The New Hampshire Project

What draws you to a space or an individual?
Technically speaking my work is documentary. The place and people in my photographs exist in reality rather than fiction. But I look at each photograph as a note of a larger composition of what I was describing in the previous question. I treat projects as a long line of putting together each piece of an idea of what, where, and who defines place for each of us within the body of work.

What is your interest in small towns and industrial spaces?
I don’t know if small towns and industrial spaces are necessarily my interests, but they are more a huge part of New England culture and the remnants of our manufacturing past. You’d be hard pressed to make work about most suburbs in New England without coming into these places where great industry existed, and has since moved on to other parts of the world to leave a town to fend for itself. I think we, as a country, are all feeling a little left behind, and in a lot of ways these spaces and people represent that idea.

You’ve referenced quite a few times the influence your father’s profession had on you growing up. Can you share a bit more about this?
Much to most people’s surprise I did not really grow up in New Hampshire. We lived in a New Jersey suburb, similar to the one I moved to in New Hampshire, from birth until I was 13. My parents had me young, and I watched both my mother and father work for small businesses brought up by local owners who supported them through my childhood. Sometime around my entering of the public school system my father got a job for an insurance company, and I watched him slowly get worked down by the corporate system, and all of it’s flaws and inadequacies. He was doing what he thought he was supposed to do to support our family and instead of continuing to work for a local carpet installation business, of which he worked at for 10 or so years, he entered into the corporate world. He quickly rose through to a managerial position and the more he rose up the ladder the more miserable he became. One day, when I was 13, he came home and said he quit his job and we were going to move to New Hampshire, where his family was, and start his own carpet and flooring business. The first few years were hard, but he now employs several people, has a store, and works almost every day of the week. I think seeing my father struggle with his identity within the constructs of the corporate system that has slowly taken over our economy over small businesses got me to where I am now.

Where do you hope to see your photography work move in the future. Tell is about your dreams and ambitions.
I am just going to keep doing what I am doing, shooting any job that comes my way and building a life for myself. Eventually I will release all my work, but for now I am enjoying exploring without any artistic obligations to a gallery or grant system and would rather experience photography through running a business. I now have an intern and assistant that I can pay and it feels good to be able to pay employees and teach them how to run their own business. It’s all about creating the environment you want for yourself at a pace that is reasonable. One day I hope to show in galleries and museums, but if a few people walked up to me in my life and said that they “got” what I was thinking or trying to do with a body of work, that would be more than enough for me!

Many thanks to Shane and his amazing assistant, Meg Elkin, & intern, Camilla.  Please be sure to visit Shane’s website for more information.

www.shanegodfrey.com

The New Hampshire Project

 

GERALD & STEWART BY FIDELITY A/W’14

Back in the neighborhoods of Everett, MA, situated just minutes from downtown Boston, sits the entirety of Fidelity Sportswear Co.  That’s right.  Design, production, accounting, marketing, shipping & receiving.  It’s all under one roof.

 

In honor of American garment manufacturing and the place we call home, Fidelity decided to shoot it’s lookbook for the Gerald & Stewart AW14 collection in the factory.  With the help of photographer, Shane Godfrey,  and our friends from Steven Alan, Wilderness Workshop & Sault New England, who supplied outfits for the shoot, we captured a glimpse of the collection at its very roots.

 

StuWebber

Stewart Webber | Fidelity’s Pattern Drafter

We hope you enjoy the lookbook.  We hope you enjoy the Gerald & Stewart collection even more.  Please take a look by clicking here and be sure to visit our stores page for a complete list of retailers worldwide where you can find our garments this fall.  Enjoy!

 

Men's & Women's Baseball Jackets | Gerald & Stewart by Fidelity AW14

Men’s & Women’s Baseball Jackets | Gerald & Stewart by Fidelity AW14

 

 

GERALD & STEWART BLOG

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new website + blog dedicated to the Gerald & Stewart collection by Fidelity Sportswear.

Here you will find new resources and information on our iconic, wool outerwear made right here in the US of A.  Through our blog, we hope to connect you with the garments that you love and introduce you to some of the amazing people behind the name.

Fidelity Sportswear is a family run apparel company with deep gratitude for the people who have supported us along the way.  To come are interviews with our friends at Steven Alan, Save Khaki & Wilderness Workshop, Q&A’s with Fidelity’s design & production team, in addition to a behind the scene look at stores across the world carrying Gerald & Stewart by Fidelity this fall, like Centre Commercial in Paris and Freaks in Japan.  Please check back often for the latest news and an inside peak at Fidelity Sportswear Co.

 

Sincerely,

Gerald & Stewart Webber

 

 

Fidelity Factory

Fidelity Sportswear, Boston, MA