This ad from 1946 gives a bit of a hint of the luxury that was Sulka. At one time THE place a gentleman in New York went for his shirts and neckwear, Sulka closed its doors in 2002 after a long downhill slide and a noble but failed attempt to resurrect the company.
Amos Sulka and partner Leon Wormser started the company in the 1890s on lower Broadway. Originally they made uniform shirts for fireman and policemen, and for butlers. Before long the employers of these well-shirted butlers became clients of A. Sulka, and the business became a shirt and tie supplier to the ultra rich and famous. In the early years of the 20th century they started a store in Paris, and in the 1920s the New York store moved to Fifth Avenue and there were stores in London’s Old Bond Street and in Chicago. They even bought a textile mill in Lyon, France that supplied them with fabrics of the highest quality. Sulka had arrived, and being a customer of the store said that you had arrived as well.
Sulka products were luxury at its finest, and quality that was matched only by stores such as Turnbull and Asser in London. In all the years I’ve been haunting used clothing shops, I’ve run across only a handful of Sulka items, including a necktie that was lined in the same fabric as the tie, and that had an extra piece in the neck to ensure that it fit properly.
So last week when I pulled a gentleman’s silk and cashmere scarf from the Goodwill bins and then saw the Sulka label, I had to suppress a little squeal of delight.
In 1975 the last family owner sold his share of the company, and for the next 15 years A. Sulka floundered as it was sold several times. In 1989 it looked as though the company was saved when it was purchased by Vendome, a holding company in the business of luxury brands such as Cartier and Piaget. It is interesting that in my 1996 book, Style and the Man, author Alan Fusser is cautiously optimistic concerning the future of A. Sulka. Unfortunately, Sulka’s target customers were more interested in Brioni and Ralph Lauren, and the last store closed in 2002. The trend toward “heritage” brands came a little too late for Sulka.