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Bruce Bellusci, president and CEO at Hardwick Clothes, shows off the Hardwick label inside a recently-manufactured blazer alongside Hardwick owner Allan Jones at Hardwick's plant on Old Tasso Road in Cleveland, Tenn.

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Hardwick announces new executive hires, rolls out new products

This week brought more good news for Cleveland suit maker Hardwick Clothes, as tailor-made industry veterans John Diacatos and Finn Wald-Jacobsen joined the company's executive team and a pair of top new products — a new blazer and khaki pants — were released.

Diacatos comes to Hardwick after 37 years with luxury, Rochester, N.Y.-based menswear brand Hickey Freeman. Wald-Jacobsen comes to Hardwick from Haverhill, Mass.-based Southwick Apparel, another luxury clothier which provides products for Brooks Brothers.

Diacatos is the new vice president of manufacturing at Hardwick, and Wald-Jacobsen is the new director of engineering.

The hirings highlight Hardwick's ongoing, uphill battle to increase its production capacity and improve manufacturing efficiencies.

Right now, Hardwick is producing around 2,500 pieces of clothing a week, and needs to hit 3,000 to 3,200 piece, accoridng to owner Allan Jones.

Jones stressed the importance of hitting those numbers for the company.

"This was the final thing we had to do," he said. "We've got to get our manufacturing up."

Hardwick's high-end navy blazer won Garden and Gun magazine's top Made in the South style award in November, and the country's oldest suit maker announced last month it will be the menswear provider for on-air talent during NBC's broadcast of the Olympic Games later this year — publicity which expands the Hardwick brand but also puts additional strain on the company's production capacity.

Hiring has increased the company's workforce to about 315 now, and Hardwick is continually looking for additional employees.

Diacatos talked Tuesday about the importance of well-trained workers for Hardwick.

"It all starts with the employee — the people who are sewing and pressing and cutting, " he said. "That's our first priority."

Diacatos was vice president of manufacturing at Hickey Freeman before coming to Cleveland.

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"And then Bruce (Bellusci) called me, and were talking for a while and it really sparked my interest," he said.

Bellusci, president and CEO at Hardwick, came to Cleveland after years at famed Chicago suit maker Hart Schaffner and Marx.

Diacatos said the two were familiar with one another having spent so many years at separate companies in the same industry, and that Bellusci was pivotal in his decision to leave New York for Tennessee.

"He can sell," said Diacatos.

Jones said it's Bellusci who ought to receive credit for putting together Hardwick's executive team — an amalgam of industry professional from all over the map.

He called Bellusci the "Pied Piper of the South."

"He's drawing them all in," said Jones.

Hardwick leaders have compared Hardwick to a start-up, having undergone a total overhaul since coming out of bankruptcy court in 2014.

Diacatos said the challenges and rewards of that environment enticed him, and he has seen immediate results on the manufacturing floor with workers.

"It's been fun seeing people start to get it," he said.

New products

Hardwick also rolled out two new products this week, a new English Blazer and King Cotton Khakis, both high-end items made of imported material from England and Italy, respectively.

Hardwick's Super 150s Italian Blazer launched was considered a starting point for the company and premiered last fall to acclaim and the Garden and Gun award. It was the most expensive product ever offered by Hardwick, with a price point of more than $700.

It's just-announced descendant, the navy English Blazer, sells for closer to $900, and is made from English fabric from Hardy Minnis, a historic mill in Huddersfield, England. The fabric carries a warrant from Queen Elizabeth II, head of the British royal family, and the blazer's interior features a custom-designed purple bemberg lining with the Hardwick logo.

The coat's buttons match the color of a gold Rolex Yachtmaster watch.

The King Cotton Khaki collection, meanwhile, features long-spun cotton fabrics woven by the Solbiata mill in Biella, Italy. The khaki pant collection is named after an 1895 musical piece by John Philip Sousa, the King Cotton March. The name is a throwback to Hardwick's Southern roots.

King Cotton Khakis sell for more than $250.

It currently takes about 10 weeks to produce a jacket, and the goal for company officials going forward is to cut that back to around six weeks.

Hardwick products are available for purchase at local retailers like Yacoubian Tailors and Bruce Baird and Co. in Chattanooga, and Town Squire in Cleveland.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

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