Carhartt WIP is part of the Work in Progress Holding AG. Our family-owned business group started as a licensee and European distributor of the US workwear manufacturer Carhartt in the early 1990s. Since then, it develops its own collections based on workwear originals. Subscribing to the same values that have motivated Hamilton Carhartt more than a hundred years ago, Carhartt Work in Progress (WIP) combines authentic adaptations of the robust American originals with extensive subcultural engagement. This, in turn, has seen the brand place itself in a new context, while bringing forth its own classics.
In the USA, Carhartt stands for sturdy work clothes. When Hamilton Carhartt founded the company in 1889 in Detroit, Michigan, he specialized in providing industrial workers with jackets, pants and his own range of patented overalls made of durable canvas. From the 1960s onwards, Carhartt’s hardwearing products gained popularity outside of factories and mines, and the brand began to create its first leisure collections. By the late 1980s, Carhartt’s original workwear began to be embraced by people on the streets of major cities and in subcultures across the globe. That was where Swiss entrepreneur Edwin Faeh, who had entered the clothing industry with a denim boutique in Basel in the 70s, became aware of the rugged, functional garments with their distinctive ‘C’ logo.
In 1989, a century after Hamilton Carhartt put his first overalls on the market, Edwin Faeh and his wife Salomee Faeh-Meister began importing a small selection of American workwear to Europe. In 1994, their company, Work in Progress (WIP), became Carhartt’s exclusive European distribution partner. Shortly after, WIP acquired a license that allowed the Faehs to develop their own collection based on the American originals and to sell it outside the United States.
Assuming the role of the brand’s creative director, Salomee Faeh-Meister began to tailor Carhartt WIPs range to a new clientele. The young Swiss company positioned itself confidently and proactively, carving its own niche at a time when streetwear was in its early infancy. From then on, WIP’s sales network steadily expanded. The very first Carhartt WIP store opened in London in 1997, while also becoming increasingly involved in cultural spheres outside its own industry. From the late 90s onwards, it maintained its own skate and BMX teams, supported artists from various fields, founded the progressive, electronic music platform Combination Records and published the magazine Rugged, which acted as a pop-culture curiosity cabinet.
Over time, the brand’s collection and its international distribution and retailing network grew. By the turn of the millenium, the latter had grown to include Asia and in 2011, Carhartt WIP’s first US store opened in New York City, bringing the brand back to its original homeland. Published in 2016, the book The Carhartt WIP Archives offered a comprehensive overview of the multi-faceted universe that Carhartt WIP had built for itself.
Carhartt Work in Progress aims to continuously progress and evolve, without ever losing sight of its origins. Over the course of the past two decades, our business has developed organically, along with its customers, the culture that surrounds the brand, and its employees who have helped shape what Carhartt WIP is today. Our business culture is firmly anchored in history, taking inspiration from the days of Hamilton Carhartt, where under the slogan “Workers Unite” he provided his factory workers with fair conditions based on union negotiations.
Carhartt WIP’s creative drive transcends categories, hierarchies, and disciplines. Far beyond our own range of products, we engage in collaborations, maintain artistic platforms such as Carhartt WIP Radio, and support external cultural projects in various fields. Since the beginning, such activities have formed an essential part of our brand’s culture – not least because they broaden horizons and inspire new ideas. Instead of following rigid marketing strategies or trends, we act only on what we believe in.
Carhartt Work in Progress operates across borders, in both a cultural, and geographical sense. Our headquarters are centrally located in the border triangle that links Germany, Switzerland, and France. It is here, in a small German city called Weil am Rhein, that the company and its logistical processes are managed. It is also where our goods are stored, prepared for sale, and dispatched. The design team that develops our collections is split between two offices in Basel and Berlin. The latter location also accommodates our in-house photo studio, as well as our graphic, e-commerce, and parts of our marketing department, whose head office is located in Paris.
Over the course of the past two decades, Carhartt WIP has grown considerably within Europe and beyond. As well as offices in Hong Kong and New York City, and a company-owned factory in Tunisia, we maintain an increasing number of international showrooms, which distribute our products in more than 30 countries across the globe. As Carhartt WIP’s retail network expands globally, the number of our own stores keeps rising, too. Currently, there are around 100 worldwide.