The Finer Things
March 31, 2016
A luxury linens company in Massachusetts takes its family heritage into the twenty-first century with a sleek facility overhaul and a consumer-focused vision.
Text by Julie Dugdale
George Matouk Jr. is circling a bin overflowing with a jumble of luxurious white towels trimmed in a slate blue. Phone in hand, he’s snapping photos of the fluffy heap from this angle and that, zooming in on the embroidery or tugging a corner of a towel from the pile, layering it just so. Beside the bin, an employee at a sewing machine is carefully running white towels under the needle to stitch the trim pattern.
“I like to send pictures like this to our retailers,” Matouk says; these particular towels are custom designs for home-decor behemoth One Kings Lane. “We want them to see what goes into this and educate their consumers. We want them to see there’s value in this product. We can really use this whole factory in a way that’s super engaging.”
The factory to which he refers is the family-run Matouk empire, purveyor of luxury linens, bedding, and bath items, based in Fall River, Massachusetts. Matouk is the third generation at the helm of the company known for its sophisticated, high-end home essentials like towels, duvet covers, tablecloths, sheets, throw blankets, and even bathrobes. He’s proud of the sleek facility, pointing out details as he strolls through the workspace introducing employees who are bundling up linens to fulfill orders or manning giant fabric-slicing machines that cut with, he says, “NASA-level precision.”
Matouk has every reason to be proud: The 87,000-square-foot space is the outcome of a recent $10 million expansion by Cambridge, Massachusetts, architecture firm Cambridge Seven Associates, that nearly doubled the size of the facility. “They were excited about redefining a textile center in Fall River for the twenty-first century,” says Matouk, whose vision included an employee lounge and cafe with computer stations and a courtyard, an outdoor park with a walking path and strategically planted trees, and solar panels that provide 25 percent of the company’s electricity. From the lobby, visitors can access the Matouk Factory Store and can also see, via floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the activity on the factory floor.
The design is meant to create inclusivity and unity among the manufacturing, administrative, and retail branches of the company. It’s a concept dubbed “One Matouk,” which is reflected in the cement path that snakes outside the building, where Matouk invited all of his employees to sign their names in the wet cement as a token of their collective part in the company. “It’s a quality-of-life thing,” he says. “We want people in our community to come and work here. It’s not necessarily an easy sell to get people to work in a textile mill, but we don’t have a problem recruiting. The employees work hard for the company, and the company takes good care of the employees.”
The business was founded in 1929 by Matouk’s grandfather John. Born in Syria and trained in the craftsmanship of fine linens in Italy, John transferred the business to Manhattan during World War II; his son, George Sr., moved the company to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1985. George Jr. relocated the factory to its current home in 2005. “There’s a great tradition of textile production in this area and a great appreciation for manufacturing work,” he says. “My responsibility is to carry on the history of the business and modernize it to deliver it to the fourth generation of Matouks, should they be interested.”
With the new facility comes an eye toward brand evolution. The company imports its custom fabrics from Italy, Portugal, and India, and prides itself on a blend of modern digitized machinery and artisanal craftsmanship. But though Matouk has timelessly popular products like the Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”) towel and the Lowell sheet (named for the Lowell Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where Matouk and his wife spent their wedding night), it’s difficult, he admits, to convince people that expensive bedclothes or bathmats are worthwhile investments.
His strategy lies somewhere between elevating the luxury brand and making it approachable for the average consumer. He hopes that future collaborations with boutique hotels around the country (this spring, Matouk is rolling out a partnership with the celebrated Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island) will help consumers associate a deep sense of place and beauty with their personal living spaces. “These are highly intimate products that we sell,” Matouk says. “They fulfill deep emotional feelings you have not just for yourself, but for your family.” •
Fall River, Mass.
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