Is a home run. Why a home run? He rolled the cuffs, and no socks.
Michael Bastian and Brooks Brothers gave the first look yesterday, less of a collection and more of a message, and it is a brilliant one. And I was the first one out of the gate screeching that tee shirts with pictures of sheep were the last bubbles out of the air tank. I was right, too. If he had stuck with that.
Thank you Universe, he did not.
We must now take a breath before examination. I was tagged in a post on the FB group about this collection of images, the context of which was that Bastian and designer Ken Ohashi had their cuffs rolled and no socks. Congratulations all around. Then came the reviews. And I wrote – before you criticize, you have to determine what a win would look like. Bastian’s no-win looks like this: if he had heavily innovated then the feedback would be that he messed with an institution, next nail in the coffin, and so forth. In fact, that was some of the feedback. If he did nothing new under the sun, then the feedback would be that he had done nothing to reinvigorate a dying aesthetic, next nail in the coffin, and so forth. In fact, that was some of the feedback.
Bastian found the win in the no win.
He divided the message into two parts. First, to the younger customer, he said: don’t worry. You won’t look exactly like your parents. Even though looking like your parents is a little bit of the point. He introduced enough formality to make the distinction, enough casual to recognize what year it is. Is this a new look? Yes and No. No, it isn’t a massive innovation that is unlike any flavor you have ever tasted. Yes, though. Swivel your head. This demo doesn’t dress like this. To them, it IS a new look. Which is also a little bit of the point.
Then is turned his head to speak to the customer with history with the brand. And said this – here are two guys, your age, who have most every staple covered. Khaki. White ocbd. Jeans. Navy and white pallette.
That’s not an accident. It’s a strategy – and exactly the right one. Fish with the biggest net. Lament the loss of the tie? No problem. Here –
Want to see the whole spectrum in one shot? No problem. Here –
You have to keep this in mind. When a company is bought and sold, just once but in BB’s case more than once, they enter another business. Brooks is clothes, but equally or as importantly, Brooks is in the debt servicing business. Whatever price is paid for the company, that has to be repaid. It is as important as any other directive. And the way you do that is the way that Bastian has done that. You, smartly, work the room making sure you speak to every guest without getting bogged down in a long conversation with any of them. They will have a decent time at this cocktail party, and they will come to the next. And when you invite them to dinner, they will be more likely to RSVP yes to that as well.
I can’t speak to quality – I haven’t even physically seen any of the collection yet. I can’t speak to fit. I can’t speak to how wide a range we are looking at here. But what I can tell you is that you do not resurrect a brand with a Hail Mary new product. Can it be done? Of course. Do you want to try it? Of course not. What you do, if you can secure the time and bandwidth to do it, is you settle things down, first. Repour the foundation.
In a few months, Bastian, and the rest of us, will know what did and didn’t work. Then he can call the next play. With this collection, he has, in an environment where you walk out of Grand Central and see an empty shell, he has at least insured there will be a next play.