By John Lynds
Sterlingwear of Boston, in its third generation of leadership, is an all-American story of success. The company started as Viking Clothing in 1965 by Lorenzo Fredella and his two sons, Frank and Anthony. At that time, the primary work consisted of cut and sew operations for other clothing manufacturers and retailers. Then, in 1968 it was contacted by the U.S. Government to produce peacoats for the U.S. Navy. The contract to produce peacoats for the U.S. Navy propelled the company into a new and successful direction.
For over 45 years, Sterlingwear of Boston has produced the peacoat for the U.S. Navy, as well as other outerwear and dress uniforms for all branches of the armed forces.
However, the Navy announced its intentions to phase out the iconic peacoat beginning in 2019 and the Fredella Family warns the decision will lead to mass layoffs in the New England woolen textile community and affect business and jobs across America.
“The U.S. Navy phase out of the traditional Navy Peacoat will result in several hundred lost jobs, and could mark the beginning of the end for New England woolen manufacturing,” said Sterlingwear VP and COO David Fredella, “This phase out could put out of work a group of small businesses that have supported the needs of the Navy and its requirements for the Navy Peacoat for decades. The mills supporting the program were never officially notified of the phase out plan. We believe that the U.S. Navy was unaware of the collateral damage of their decision to phase out the wool Peacoat by replacing it with a 100 percent Synthetic Parka. It will not only result in the closing of manufacturing facilities and lost jobs, but it will also impact the ability of the woolen trade industry to satisfy other U.S. Military wool clothing requirements.”
The peacoat has become synonymous with the U.S. Navy. It has been and continues to be a popular fashion coat for both men and women outside of the military.
“The coat is a high performance garment that continues to be an excellent protective layer for not only yesterdays, but today’s sailors,” said Fredella. “Why would the Navy want to phase it out? Adding salt to the wound, the synthetic Parka that is set to replace the Peacoat was developed by the company Proper. If they are awarded the new contract, the Parka will be produced in Puerto Rico and not in the USA.”
Fredella said the supply chain that extends from textile mills in New England to Philadelphia as well as sheep farmers from across the Midwest, are currently trying to get an audience with the U.S. Navy to halt the phase out of the Navy Peacoat.
Jack Foster, Director of Marketing Sterlingwear of Boston said the company is hopeful, through the voices of our Congressional Representatives, Senators Warren and Markey, as well as, Congressmen Capuano that their voices and concerns will be heard.
“Sterlingwear of Boston has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the U. S. Navy since 1967,” said Foster. “In times of need, Sterlingwear of Boston has responded and provided the necessary peacoats when needed, as well as, accommodating design and material changes over the years. The impact of this decision is far reaching and will affect the lives of so many who currently work in the textile and apparel industry which is already severely impacted by the loss of manufacturing and jobs to overseas. The peacoat is an iconic garment worn by sailors for hundreds of years and is symbolic of the navy and those who have served and are presently serving. To discontinue this garment that means so much, to so many, will be a disservice to those who have proudly worn or who currently wears the U.S. Navy Peacoat.”
Fredella added, “The negative impact that this decision has on our business is unparalleled in our long history of working with the U.S. Navy. The numerous small businesses that rely on this product and the many employees that will be affected by this decision cannot be understated. It is imperative that this decision be revisited and reversed.”