Launching the Company in the 1920s
After Edgar Hyman worked for two veiling companies that failed he decided to strike out on his own. According to family lore, on September 27, 1923, the day he married Theresa, he founded Echo Scarfs, Inc. He chose “Echo” because it was an acronym for Edgar C. Hyman & Co. The company set up shop in New York, eventually moving to 485 Fifth Avenue, where it would stay for 45 years. The couple’s only child, Dorothy, joined the company in 1950 along with her husband, Paul Roberts. When her parents died, ownership passed to an aunt, and later to her husband. Along the way, Echo began building up its impressive archive of patterns that would form the backbone of its design unit. During the 1950s most of its manufacturing was moved offshore. In 1968 a museum commissioned the company to create a commemorative scarf, and out of this assignment emerged a customer design division. In 1973 the company began to do some private-label work. It would be the start of a strong period in the scarf industry. But it was a cyclical business and the good times came to an end in 1978, followed by an equally long period of poor sales.
Echo also was affected in 1978 by the death of Paul Roberts. Dorothy now took over the running of the company. In a 1998 interview with Daily News Record, she recalled, “Right after my husband died, I had one of our closest resources come to me and offer to teach me the scarf business. I had to count to 10. I grew up in this business and know it as good as anyone else.” Her knowledge would be put to the test, as the scarf category endured a fallow period that lasted until 1983. She attempted to diversify the company, which now produced capes, ponchos, vests, bags, and fabric belts. But only the belts sold well, prompting Echo to beat a quick retreat. It discontinued all the new items, with the exception of belts, but even they proved a difficult sale. Although fabric belts fit in with Echo’s expertise, to be a true player in the category a company needed to offer leather belts, which required a better understanding of the leather market and a different design approach. Nevertheless, belts moved the company beyond scarves, prompting a name change from Echo Scarfs to The Echo Design Group.
After surviving a tough patch, Echo resumed its growth in 1983, when it began selling in Europe. The company also looked to build up its business through licenses. One of the most important deals struck in company history was the licensing agreement reached with Ralph Lauren. The Echo and Ralph Lauren labels used different quality fabrics and designs, allowing the scarf lines to peacefully coexist.
1923: The company is founded.
1950: Dorothy and Paul Roberts come to work for the family company.
1978: Dorothy Roberts heads the company following her husband’s death.
1983: The company begins selling in Europe.
1992: The men’s tie division is launched.
1996: Paper products are added.
1999: A retail store in Hong Kong opens.
2003: Homeware products are expanded through the Creative Bath Products license.