Mid-Century Clothing Companies

Nat Kaplan 

Nat Kaplan

Nat Kaplan inc. was a dress manufacturing company established by Nathan Kaplan around 1935. He was a member of the Fashion Originators Guild in the 30s. His company made moderately expensive RTW, at a few hundred dollars per dress mid-century. Their dresses were mostly conservative, meant for wealthy ladies who lunch, and impressively tailored. Originally mostly using silk, they relied heavily on synthetics by the 70s, as did most fashion companies at the time. The prices remained just as high. 
After his death in 1956, his wife Sylvia and son Richard continued with the business for another 30 years, with Sylvia as designer. They created a division called Kappi. The company closed in 1986.
In 1991, Richard created another women’s line, the Worth Collection. He passed away in 1996. 

We happen to have a great 50s Nat Kaplan dress for sale right now. Click the image below.

Nat Kaplan 1950s black dress  

Le Chateau 

Le Chateau Montreal 1959

Founded in Montreal in 1959 by Herschel Segal as a menswear store, selling overstock from Herschel’s father’s old store Peerless Clothing Manufacturing Ltd. Le Chateau was a name that played up the francophone feelings budding in Quebec at the time. He began importing European fashion in 1962 including the latest Carnaby street styles, French suits and Italian turtleneck sweaters. They also started selling womenswear. Segal claims that Le Château was the first to introduce bell bottoms to Canada, and had the latest European fashion before it even arrived in New York. He dropped the older clothing he had been selling and focused entirely on youth fashions.
Le Château played a little known role in John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 1969 Montreal bed-in. The bellboy at the hotel was Tony Lashta and he picked up a couple of bell-bottom black velour jumpsuits from Le Chateau for the pair. Lennon and Ono returned to Montreal in December following the bed-in, wearing the Le Chateau jumpsuits that Tony had picked up for them! Founder Herschel Segal then visited them at their hotel.  
“The key thing about the outfits that was revolutionary was the concept of the unisex look,” says Franco Rocchi (senior vice-president of Le Château) in an interview with the National Post, adding that during the 1960s, clothing stores were still gender specific.
 By 1972, the chain grew to 10 stores, and by the end of the decade Le Château had over 50 stores across Canada. The company shifted to selling mainstream fashion instead of the latest imports from Europe.
By the early 1990s, Le Château had 160 stores and had switched to doing most of its design and manufacturing itself. In the mid 90s, Le Château experimented briefly with Goth styled clothing.
It restructured and rebranded in the 2000s after developing a reputation for cheap, faddy clothing. 
It went bankrupt in 2020 and closed all its 123 stores across Canada. 

Fashion Frocks Inc. 

Fashion Frocks Inc.

After working a few years for his father's Princess Garment Company, Philip M. Meyers founded Fashion Frocks, Inc. in 1908. Employing mostly women (and mostly homemakers), the company sold their garments door-to-door utilizing style cards. Housewives chose the outfit they wanted based on the image and description on the card. A sample of the fabric was attached to each card. The salesperson noted colours, price, deposit, and shipping information on the back of the card. They also contained inventive marketing pitches. After selection, the style cards would be returned to the manufacturing company based in Cincinnati, Ohio for processing. In the 1950's, the dresses were sold in home parties much like the famous Tupperware parties. This model was a way of bypassing the retailers and selling directly to consumers, at better value-pricing. At the height of their success, the company reported serving one million customers in the United States. The company ceased operations in the 1970s. 

Click the image below to go to our listing for this sublime black 50s Fashion Frocks dress. 

Vintage 1950s Minimalist Black Zip Day Dress, Small

Harford Frocks

Harford Frocks

Harford frocks was another very similar direct sales company to Fashion Frocks, from Cincinnati. Perhaps a rival? Couldn’t find too much info, so if anyone knows more, please let us know!
 The president was Charles Israel, who arrived in Cincinnati in the early 1930s. He was a social activist working for the benefit of the Jewish community in Cincinnati. It looks like the company operated from at least between the 20s and 70s- so Charles might not have been the founder. They advertised in cheap magazines and comics and had three size ranges- junior, misses and half sizes.
In 1937, Ohio flooded and their building was damaged. Harford Frocks sued their insurance company because they refused to pay for the damage. The insurance company won the case.
They have beautiful sales/ style cards.

Doncaster/ Tanner 

Doncaster and Tanner  Doncaster and Tanner

Founded in 1931 in Rutherfordton, N.C. by Simpson Bobo Tanner and his wife Mildred “Millie” Tanner. Bobo's father had founded the Henrietta textile mill. The couple had spent part of their honeymoon in Doncaster, England and this was the inspiration for their company name. It started as a shirt and collar company, which expanded into shirtwaist dresses inspired by designs coming from Paris. By the 1950s, they were exclusively producing womenswear. They used a supply of fabrics coming from local mills. A call from the Junior League in Charlotte, NC introduced the idea of selling the designs through their organization to raise funds for their civic projects. Many sellers of Doncaster had connections to their local Junior Leagues, which were helpful for tapping into a network of potential customers. They sold at parties and clothing shows. Four times a year, the collections were shown in consultants homes, where customers were guided as to what would work for them. The consultants got a 25% commission. Items were then ordered and delivered to the customers homes. They hired designers such as Dorothy Cox. The Tanner brand was also launched, which could be purchased in retail stores. By the 90s, there were over 700 people employed by Doncaster and Tanner. Their clothing has been featured on the pages of Vogue as well as in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. After over 80 years in business, Doncaster went bankrupt in 2017. 

 

 

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