Case Study

Documenting Carhartt’s rich history: Using a brand archive to preserve the company’s story and inspire new products

Carhartt, an apparel company renowned for its premium workwear, embarked on a project to catalog its vast collection of clothing products and brand materials that span from 1889 to the present day. To streamline their archiving efforts, Carhartt implemented CatalogIt as their Collections Management System (CMS). Learn how Carhartt’s usage of CatalogIt helps to safeguard their brand legacy, inspire new product development, and strengthen their corporate identity.

Dave, Carhartt's archivist, works to maintain the physical and digital archive of the legacy brand's extensive clothing collection.

Carhartt’s growing brand archive initiative

Dave Moore, Carhartt’s Archive and Digital Asset Manager, has been inventorying and documenting clothing produced by the legacy brand since he was hired as their archivist in 2014. The family-owned company, which started with two sewing machines and five workers in 1889, has grown to employ over 5,500 associates worldwide and is known for producing heavy-duty, high quality working clothes. Prior to CatalogIt, Dave primarily used ad-hoc methods like spreadsheets to document the clothing, but he knew a more comprehensive catalog was in order. “Getting a CMS is something that I knew I wanted from the very beginning,” said Dave.

In 2021, the Detroit-founded company’s move to its state-of-the-art, newly remodeled facilities provided an opportunity to revamp its archiving and organization approach, so Dave’s search for a CMS began. After evaluating a variety of CMS options, Dave determined that CatalogIt was best suited to fit Carhartt’s needs. The ease of starting with a free trial allowed Dave to dive into the system and explore its capabilities. “I liked that I could download a free trial and get started immediately,” said Dave. “I started playing around and testing the system to see if it could do what I wanted it to do—I like to just dive in.”

Preserving and documenting a historic clothing collection

Dave's initial focus with CatalogIt was to incrementally document Carhartt’s clothing collection, leveraging the system's flexibility to import and clean up existing metadata from the company’s old and new productions of garments, accessories, and other wearables. To continue expanding Carhartt’s archive, Dave sources and collects items from their impressive production history, documenting them in CatalogIt as he goes. “Before, I would be tracking acquisitions through several different spreadsheets and shared documents,” says Dave. “Being able to have it all centralized now has been huge for me.”

At Carhartt’s headquarters in Dearborn, MI, Dave has a dedicated archive space and showroom to store, display, and utilize the growing collection of clothing. “What’s been great about CatalogIt is that- now that I have all my clothing metadata entered into the system- I can run searches for the types of things I’m looking for and can create little exhibits,” said Dave. Having the ability to access the collection quickly and easily on mobile has aided Dave’s efforts to share new acquisitions with his coworkers, as well. “I might be talking off-hand about a new acquisition with a senior leader, and I can simply pull it up on my phone and show them,” said Dave. “That kind of access to the collection is great.”

In 2021 Carhartt moved to its state-of-the-art, newly-remodeled facilities in Dearborn, Michigan, which includes a dedicated (and tour-able) archival space.

Utilizing the archive to inspire product design and development

Creating a comprehensive corporate archive has not only allowed Carhartt to look back at their production history, but has also fostered an opportunity to look ahead at future releases. Dave regularly collaborates with the company’s design team, pulling relevant clothing styles, fabrics, and other items from the archive to help inspire new ideas. “I will pull all the materials I have to put up a huge display,” said Dave. “It becomes a brainstorming session.” With the collection data at his fingertips, Dave is able to answer any questions about what has been manufactured in previous years.

Using CatalogIt, Dave can easily run searches and create exhibits for brainstorming sessions that not only organize the information but also serve as records of how the archive is being utilized. “Not only does [CatalogIt] make it easier for me to organize and print off the information, but before I didn't have an easy way to record what I pulled and showed,” said Dave. “Now I have a better record of how the archive is being used.” This streamlined approach fosters collaboration and ensures that Carhartt’s rich history influences their present and future product offerings.

Contributing to company culture and corporate identity

In addition to influencing new product offerings, Carhartt’s archive helps to tell its story with new employees. As an historic company deeply rooted in the origin story of its founder, Carhartt places great value on preserving its values, mission, and brand heritage. The archive, both physical and digital, serves as the foundation for building and reinforcing the company’s culture.

Before designing the original clothing, Carhartt’s founder, Hamilton Carhartt, researched railroad workers’ needs for strong and long-lasting work clothes in order to overdeliver. “That ethos and philosophy is still how we do everything, but we have whole teams doing it now,” said Dave.  Carhartt continues to pride itself on a commitment to exceptional standards of quality and durability. “You need to have the archive to back it up if you’re going to make those claims,” Dave said. All new Carhartt employees are now introduced to the archive when hired, and Dave says it’s become the favorite component of new hire orientation. Using CatalogIt, Carhartt can help back up its brand claims with readily accessible archival material, strengthening its corporate identity.

Carhartt's physical and digital archive both serve as the foundation for building and reinforcing the company’s culture, safeguarding its legacy.

Expanding the archive in the future

Carhartt’s ongoing archiving efforts are helping to preserve its history, inspire new product development, and safeguard its legacy. As Dave has been primarily focused on documenting clothing in CatalogIt, he will soon begin cataloging historic brand signage and paper materials in the system, as well, preserving another component of the company’s history.

When planning for future expansion of Carhartt’s digital archive, self-service research access is a goal for Dave. “I want other team members to have as few barriers as possible to exploring the archive and getting the information they need,” Dave said. “It’s all about access for me.” When asked if Carhartt would ever consider making their collection browseable by the public on the CatalogIt HUB, “Nothing is off the table for discussion,” said Dave. “The sky is the limit!”

Carhartt Archives

Michigan, USA

"I might be talking off-hand about a new acquisition with a senior leader, and I can simply pull it up on my phone and show them."

Dave Moore

Archive and Digital Asset Manager
Plan Type





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