After a couple of posts already on Brooks Brothers, the fodder keeps coming, and discussion points keep popping up, so we may be on this topic for a while.
First off, today on the Brooks website I noticed a plug for the first issue of 1818, its new lifesteyle magazine. The overall feel, as we’ve come to expect, is very much international fashion brand (I don’t think any of you are in denial about that being where the brand is). However, there are some dollops of Americana here and there, including articles about Brooks’ dressing 39 of 44 US presidents. Michael Williams of A Continuous Lean also provides a piece on made-in-America, and Patricia Mears of the MFIT presents a piece called “The Ivy Style” that looks back at the museum exhibit and Brooks’ role in it.
Purists may bemoan the ways in which Ivy style, now often referred to as “preppy” style, have been appropriated by the fashion world. Yet this classic look has stood the test of time and thrived for decades precisely because it is so brilliantly distilled and perfected; elements can be tweaked and even upended without losing its distinctive, spirited essence.
Now if your irony meter just started quivering, better hang on to your seat. 1818 Magazine also includes an interview with Thom Browne, head of the Black Fleece collection and whose ideas on proportion seem to be having an increasing effect on the brand as a whole.
Here’s some of what Browne has to say in a Q&A led by style writer Glenn O’Brien:
I think it will always stay true to what I set out to do at the beginning. That is to be a little bit younger version of what is true to Brooks Brothers. It’s always going to be classically inspired.
As an Ivy-Style.com comment-leaver recently pointed out, “everything is relative.” Perhaps in this case that old cliché is spot on. Point of view will determine whether you find Browne’s creations “classically inspired” and “a little bit younger,” or distortions of once-gentlemanly clothing by a conceptual artist.
I definitely have to be true to the brand. It has to be a little more classic-looking, but still really more youthfully spirited.
On one of our recent posts, a reader asked if anyone has actually seen someone wearing something that is obviously Black Fleece. This illustrates the important point that the kind of person who wears it and the kind of person who asks such a question probably travel in different circles (though both may find themselves walking down Madison Avenue). However, O’Brien sees fit to ask Browne if he still gets excited seeing his clothes walking down the street:
I guess you eventually get to a point that you see it a lot. But I’m still, you know… not huge, so when I do see it, I get a kick out of it. The most important thing is that Black Fleece was really something that I set out to do that really fit within the store and it enhanced what Brooks Brothers had done for the last couple of hundred years.
The last line is the richest one for debate. Has Thom Browne “enhanced what Brooks Brothers has done for the past couple of hundred years,” or caricatured it — like Duchamp putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa — which Brooks has oddly enough endorsed because we live in a postmodern age in which ironic is the new normal?
Finally, O’Brien also asks Browne if there’s any chance he’ll get President Obama in Black Fleece, to which Browne answers he’d love to see it.
I’m not sure how the rest of us would feel seeing our nation’s leader in clothing that would undermine his authority not only at home but abroad. Brooks Brothers may have dressed 39 out of 44 presidents, but it wasn’t in Black Fleece. — CC