Carhartt Turns Its Sights on Women With Launch of New Collection

Carhartt has been dressing women for work since it made its first coverall in 1917. But with more women entering the skilled trades, the brand has now created an updated line of workwear designed to address their specific needs.

Beginning with the spring collection, which launches Thursday, Carhartt has developed a line of sweatshirts and T-shirts featuring Tencel, a fiber created from wood pulp, that offers breathability and strength as well as softness and comfort. Going forward, the plan is to increase the breadth of the women’s offering into other styles including workpants, joggers and apparel designed for sun protection. An expanded denim offering is also in the cards.

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“Women are entering the trades at a much faster pace than men,” said Susan Hennike, chief brand officer of Carhartt. “We have always shot our photography, done our campaigns, as well as researched our product on real people — real workers. And in doing that with women, we found what she wanted and it was very apparent that she has different needs. We like to think of ourselves as the leader in workwear and we saw a bigger opportunity to lead in women’s.

“We reach a pretty broad base of trades,” she continued. “So we’re looking to make sure we’re building a really good product that stands up to whatever she needs. At the end of the day, the core thing is that the product is built to last, but the female consumers also want it to be comfortable.”

She said women are increasingly taking jobs as plumbers, electricians and even working at solar farms. “We actually just shot a really amazing campaign for this spring and fall at a solar farm that was led by a woman,” she said. The company also dresses the head groundskeeper for the Detroit Tigers, who is a woman. The women’s line is also targeted to females who work in fields as varied as chefs and health care.

Carhartt women's workwear
Women’s workwear is among the fastest growing businesses for Carhartt.

Hennike said womenswear accounts for around 20 to 25 percent of Carhartt’s overall business right now, and while there’s no precise goal for how large it can be, “we’d love to see the penetration higher,” she said. “We continue to focus on our men’s business too and hope to supply all the things that they need for work. And we have so much runway to do that across the company.”

Carhartt continues to be privately held and managed by the descendants of the company’s founder, Hamilton Carhartt.

The first pieces in what Carhartt is calling the Tencel Fiber Series include French terry crewneck sweatshirts and Henleys; French terry short-sleeve sweatshirts; crewneck T-shirts; flower pocket Ts, and graphic Ts. The color palette has been updated and includes neutrals as well as brighter hues such as lilac and peach. “The color penetration is great,” said Jo James, director of women’s design, who added that Tencel retains its color “quite well.”

While the color is a bonus, the true worth of the collection is that it answers the need for “comfort meets durability,” added Samantha Denton, vice president of women’s category at Carhartt. “After meeting with real women in the field, we repeatedly heard they needed lighter, more comfortable clothes versatile enough for both on and off the job that could outlast their day. We went to work to design products that feel softer and lighter, wear better and add breathability, without sacrificing durability. This collection is truly inspired by women, designed by women and built for women who know the definition of hard work.”

Although Carhartt has been embraced by the fashion community with numerous designer collaborations, Hennike said this collection is targeted to female workers and if it becomes a Millennial must-have, that’s fine. “If the street happens to embrace us, all the better,” she said. “I believe a lot of it is based on the authenticity and our 135-year history. But we’re not veering away from that; we’re 100 percent dedicated to making sure that we’re building that durable, comfortable, versatile product for him and her.”

To introduce the collection to the public, Carhartt hosted an event at its store in Detroit on Wednesday night and will be rolling out point-of-sale materials and promoting it on its social channels.

“Women’s is one of the fastest growing businesses for us, so we see quite an opportunity to be able to lean in and tell that story through our own stores and website,” she said. Carhartt operates 41 of its own stores around the U.S.

This is not Carhartt’s first move to support female workers. For many years the company has supported efforts benefiting women, including a donation last fall to Baby2Baby that provided working mothers nationally with basic essentials such as diapers, formula and children’s clothing. The brand also focused its spring 2023 campaign around “For the Love of Labor” grants to organizations that provide job training for women entering the skilled trades and plans to continue with a similar initiative this coming spring tied into International Women’s Day.

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