MARCH 1, 2021
The Graphic Image & GiGi New York Story
How has a made-in-America handbag company, book binder, journal, datebook and album maker managed to emerge and survive over the past 40 years? As all the other American leather manufacturers packed their bags and left in the 80’s and 90’s, Graphic Image has held steady and at times, thrived.
Over the next few months, we will tell the story of the Glazer family, and how they came to stand alone, carried forward by the quality of products which they continue to make in the US to this day. Hear all the turning points leading up to the Great Recession, the arrival of GiGi New York and finally the survival through the pandemic onto today. What did they do differently? How did they become the darling of the first bloggers and go on to teach themselves how to make create a world class handbag named GiGi New York? How has Graphic Image been able to survive the technology advance for four decades?
This is a story of perseverance and an uncompromising commitment to quality. It is one of knowing when to follow and when to resist the winds of change; a story of the value of loyalty and the price you sometimes pay for it. In it are lessons of building something on a solid foundation: something that remains in place even when a few bricks happen to fall out.
All of this is part of our story. We hope it inspires others that IT CAN BE DONE.
THE EARLY YEARS
Our story started back in 1969. That was the year our father, Bennett Glazer, was contracted as a graphic designer to create an exclusive diary for Brooks Brothers. His regular job was designing books for the Franklin Library, the best examples of which were created in the 1970’s and can still be found in Indie bookstores today. He produced the diary and worked at the library for the next 9 years, at which time, in his mid 50’s, he decided he would pack it all in and start a business on his own that he would call Graphic Image. This business would build on diaries (datebooks). His wife Phyllis was equally engaged and two years later his son, Tom, fresh out of college, joined him. All production was in the US and contracted to companies which Bennett worked with over the prior ten years. His three partners were his salesman, who owned the Brooks Brothers job (although Bennett designed and produced the books), a printer (for the BB diary) and a leather cover maker used by him for the Franklin Library.
The success of Bennett’s diaries was immediate. Focusing on a handful of elite department stores, Bennett used upscale fashion leathers on a product that had never been other than functional. His problem was that he was paying out all the profits to his partners, particularly his salesman. Bennett knew his trade like no one else. But a business man he was not. When Tom arrived on the scene, armed with his philosophy degree from Boston College, a few things seemed evident. Why were there not more customers and why was the leather cover supplier so unreliable? He set out to find more customers and learned how to make covers himself. Within one year, Bennett’s business seemed doomed when his three partners went into competition against him. The salesman, knowing nothing about manufacturing, failed first. The printer, unable to understand quality, followed a few years later while the cover maker developed a successful business in synthetic leather diaries, creating confusion between the brands by copying everything Bennett designed in the years to come.
Graphic Image had survived the first of many challenges to come in the years ahead. The wild ride had begun!
THE STORY CONTINUES...
Next month the journey begins with the 80’s and how the story of three customers, Tiffany, Barneys and Neiman Marcus, came to define the company.