Update: At 3 o’clock on Brooks sent out an email blast plugging the runway show with a link to this page on its website, which includes video of the event.
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Brooks Brothers officially kicked off its 200th anniversary celebrations with a runway show yesterday in Florence, Italy. After all our years here complaining about how the company has abandoned the traditional customer — at least that’s how it feels to the traditional customer — this is probably the greatest fodder for Internet outrage yet. Not that I’m encouraging it: isn’t it more fun to build an ideal trad wardrobe, as in our last post, than to castigate Brooks once again for failing to be something that it’s not even trying to be?
After all, a European runway show isn’t the kind of thing you go to great expense to produce in order to show traditional classics that haven’t changed in 60 years. It’s the thing you do in order to simultaneously blend in and stand out with all the other international fashion houses. So from that point of view, how did Brooks fare? Here’s what Vogue correspondent Luke Leitch has to say. First, the show’s setting:
Why celebrate the anniversary at Pitti instead of New York? Probably because the current owner, Claudio del Vecchio, is from around these parts—although, there are plans afoot for further celebrations that will continue through the year. As a party-starter, this show proved mixed. The Salone dei Cinquecento is surely one of the most magnificently overblown rooms in the world, and a full orchestra playing “Empire State of Mind,” Muzak-style, only added to the incongruous and fusty grandiosity of a context that was always going to be a struggle for any clothes to complement.
As for the clothes:
Those clothes, when they came, were neither all bad nor especially good.
If it had not been for some truly deranged, done-in-the-dark styling that saw cable-knit sweaters worn over tailored jackets, a raincoat worn inside out, a check jacket over a seersucker suit, cardigans over jackets, and plenty more such unimaginatively disruptive gestures, the men’s component would have been okay, too, but, sadly, these interventions undermined the so-so collection.
Vogue’s coverage includes a full 52-image slideshow of the event. As has been the case for so many years now whenever Brooks releases a catalog or other marketing imagery, so many looks appear as if they could be any random fashion house, often from any random era. For example, what does this remind you of — I mean besides the Napoleonic Wars or ’80s pop singer Adam Ant. Is it Thierry Mugler from 1991, or Krizia Uomo from 1992?
But those such images you can see for yourself, and there are too many to post here. What’s perhaps more interesting are the looks that employ some traditional element, but hyper-stylized for the context and with too many levels of fashion irony to keep track of. Take this look. If layering is a preppy tradition — including a polo or turtleneck under an OCBD — then why not wear a tweed jacket over a seersucker suit?
And if everyone around you is wearing Untuckit shirts, why not make a fashion statement by tucking in your sportcoat?
Not impressed yet? Bet you haven’t seen this before: sweater vest worn with a suit — on the outside:
Here’s a twist on the classic chest-pocket monogram:
Finally, this one makes me think of Doctor Who:
Leitch ends his piece with a well known quote from the last of the Brooksmen to run the company:
Del Vecchio’s predecessors at the helm of this famous firm include the four original Brooks Brothers, sons of the founder Henry. One of their descendants, Winthrop Brooks, was the last in the family to run it, in the 1940s, and during that time came up with a line that rather finely encapsulates a still very relevant menswear dialectic. This is how he put it: “Let me say here a word about conservatism. It does not mean a stubborn refusal to discard what is old and outworn, nor an old fogeyish prejudice against innovations of any kind. It really means a determination to retain what has been tried and proven to be good, and to refrain from the exploitation, simply because it is new, of what is essentially cheap and silly.” Winthrop would not have allowed cheap and silly styling to undermine the anniversary of this magnificently storied company.