Millennial Fogey: Gilding The Lilly

Wed 22 Apr 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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Launched Sunday, Lilly Pulitzer for Target has already come and gone —quite quickly, as a matter of fact. It was a masterful act of marketing for Lilly’s parent company, Oxford Industries, whose stock leapt 7 percent. Target itself comes away with slightly less to brag about, with thousands of irate customers walking away with empty hands and thwarted aspirational dreams. Whether the disappointed budget-preps shell out for Lilly directly from the source is yet to be seen, but no matter how you slice it this is a huge win for the brand.

Some of you are probably shaking your heads in dismay. Lilly Pulitzer is no doubt a divisive brand among the buttondown set. Some have never been fans, some were fans of the old stuff, some love the old and new alike. I was interested in the overlap of clientele during and after the heyday, and recently asked Richard Press to expand a bit on the connection between J. Press and Lilly Pulitzer, which he’s alluded to in the past. “In 1970 Don Leas visited me,” he said. “He was the Lilly men’s rep as well as a Palm Beach and Philadelphia socialite. We agreed to carry a Lilly line of Ivy League caricatures (Princeton tigers, Yale bulldogs), and a group of Lilly pants, sport jackets, and half-sleeved men’s sport shirts, as long as he confined the items to J. Press in areas contiguous to our stores. Donald was a handsome bon vivant, and after receiving our orders we would head over to the Yale Club, where we closed the bar. We enjoyed great success with the line which lasted perhaps four or five years before it died a natural death.”

It may give some a coronary, but to me a J. Press sack jacket in a Lilly print sounds fantastic. It turns out that I actually quite like Lilly Pulitzer, despite what others have called my otherwise conservative sensibility. I have several vintage Lilly Pulitzer ties that were gifts to my father from James Bradbeer, one of the Philadelphia investors who revived the brand (with Ms. Pulitzer’s guidance and design expertise) in the 1990s.

While in Florida this winter, I wore one for dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab (with a Press blazer) and was seated immediately, while the slovenly tourists in front of us were told there was an hour wait.

During that same trip to the Sunshine State I spent some time in Palm Beach looking for Lilly “men’s stuff,” as it was once called, but to my great disappointment there was precious little to be found in vintage stores, and none whatsoever in the retail location at the Breakers. Worse still, many of the ladies on Worth Avenue were wearing pricy yoga pants instead of printed shifts, and seemed not to be heading to Ta-Boo for lunch, but rather Starbucks between training sessions. I saw one or two gents in traditional Palm Beach wear — bright pants, blazer, straw hat — but, outside of a few drinking establishments, the people I met in Palm Beach dressed basically the same as any other prosperous leisure community.

That Lilly for Target was a highly profitable maneuver can’t be argued. As for Lilly’s cachet, that remains to be seen. I’m not convinced it will hurt the prestige of the brand among dedicated followers. After all, if Ralph Lauren can appeal to both aspirational and luxury customers, Lilly Pulitzer should be able to as well. It’s my hope that perhaps in the near future Lilly Pulitzer will expand the higher end of its offerings, manufacture more in America, and maybe even partner again with a company such as J. Press or Brooks Brothers to recreate some of the more stylish offerings from the late ’60s and early ’70s.

In the meantime, I’ll wear the ties I have. I may even put one on for brunch with my lady next weekend to cheer her up. She slept until 9 AM last Sunday, when most Target stores had already been sold out of the Lilly Pulitzer collection for an hour. Then again, perhaps wearing one of the ties would just be rubbing it in. — DANIEL C. GREENWOOD

Riding High: Sebago’s New Crest Collection

Thu 16 Apr 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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This spring Sebago will unveil a new premium collection called Crest. Here’s what the company has to say in a press release:

This collection for men reinvents Sebago’s iconic styles with new polished details and rich materials. The handmade collection features beautiful leather hide selections and supple sheepskin underfoot for incredible comfort. Crest represents the finest Sebago has to offer.  Styles include the Crest Cayman, an Italian calf penny loafer featuring genuine welt construction, and the Crest Docksides. Handsewn styles include gorgeous Nubuck and luxurious Horween leathers including Bison, which is stronger than traditional cowhide and unparalleled in its softness.

Other key features as described in a Crest brochure include sheepskin lining, memory foam, rust-resistant brass eyelets, leather logo flag, and, on select styles, a leather welt that “deliverys a distinctive design aesthetic.”

Handmade in the Dominican Republic, the shoes will be available next month and priced from $150-$165. — CC (Continue)

 

Southern Exposure: A Visit To Eljo’s

Tue 14 Apr 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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In Charlottesville, VA, resides the legendary menswear shop Eljo’s, whose wares are succintly described on the store’s front sign: “traditional clothes.” (Continue)

 

Keys To Success: Country Club Prep Hits Year Three

Mon 30 Mar 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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The PITA tree — that’s preppy-Ivy-trad-Americana (haven’t used that in a while) — is a century old. Its roots are deep, and now matter how hard the fickle winds of fashion blow, the tree stands strong.

Without belaboring the metaphor, the PITA tree’s branches bend and twist with each new generation, and future historians of preppy will surely be obliged to devote part of the story to the intersection of Southern prep brands and e-commerce that rose to prominence in the second decade of the 21st century. For while the elements of prep were codified primarily in the Northeast, today arguably no region in the US flies the trad flag quite as much as the South.

Country Club Prep has combined a savvy business model with an eye for the rise of Southern prep brands. Foudning entrepreneurs Matt Watson and Stephen Glasgow met at the law school at the University of Virginia, whose style heritage, especially compared to Princeton, is underrated, according to Charlie Davidson. CCP just celebrated its third anniversary, and in that short amount of time has already opened two bricks-and-mortar stores, in Charlottesville, VA and Lexington, KY.

Many of the brands the retailer carries are Southern, and many manufacture in the US. They consist of other recently founded and entrepreurial brands inspired by traditional style, including Castaway Clothing, Kiel James Patrick, High Cotton, Collared Greens, Bird Dog Bay, Southern Proper, Smathers & Branson, and Crittenden. This interactive map shows you from where all the brands hail.

Below are pics of both the Charlottesville and Lexington stores. There’ll be more to come, incidentally: with sixfold growth in each of its years in business, CCP plans to open another 10 stores in the next few years. — CC (Continue)

 

The Polo Flagship’s New Haberdashery Section

Thu 26 Mar 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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Two weeks ago, the Polo flagship on Fifth Avenue, which opened last fall, created a new section in the store called the Haberdashery. It’s where you’ll find all the ties, dress shirts and cashmere sweaters — and all in the spring colors you’re anxious to wear.

There are also plenty of sportcoats in spring fabrics, such as wool/silk/linen blends, with patch pockets and three-button stances.

Like other clothiers (Brooks Brothers, for example), Polo has adopted names for its various fits. A clerk gave me an employee “product knowledge” handbook (which he probably shouldn’t have), which describes the Morgan as the slimmest fit, though it is also supposed to have the softest shoulder. The Polo 1 Custom is the middle fit, and the most generous cut — which is also supposed to have a bit more shoulder — is called the Bedford.

Within those three fit categories are various jacket models, three of which are named for Ivy schools. The primary difference seems to be the pockets, though they may have different linings as well. The Harvard model is a three button with patch-and-flap pockets, while the Yale has patch pockets but no flaps. The Princeton has patch-and-flap and also a patch chest pocket. The Yale seems to come with partial, butterfly-back lining.

Here are some snapshots. — CC (Continue)

 

Even Traditional Customers Like Something Fresh

Wed 25 Mar 2015 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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Yesterday, while we were posting about Brooks Brothers’ home collection, another publication posted about the brand in a much more far-reaching way.

Billionaire.com presented an interview with Luca Gastaldi, CEO of Brooks for Europe, The Middle East and Africa. As far as the big picture goes, this is the choice passage:

“It’s a good thing to have the originals in so many menswear items, the many copies of which just make the makers of the originals stronger,” he argues. “But there’s a danger when a [clothing] company culture is too tied to those classics, when you can’t see how dress is changing. One advantage of our international expansion will be that we’ll have people working in different regions challenging that American culture to adopt what is new while also being consistent with Brooks Brothers. It’s good to provoke our design teams. Sometimes there’s resistance within the company itself. Some people are scared by change — we’re all human. But we’re ready to exchange ideas, even if that means the process takes longer than I would like. Even very traditional customers like the idea of bringing something fresh to their wardrobe.”

In others words, while there are still customers for that American style of suit (roomy and broad-shouldered, a long way from Gastaldi’s preference for a figure-hugging, unlined, cardigan-style of jacket) and while that style may still be the preference for Brooks Brothers’ bedrock of US customers, he sees the future in a more ‘European’ mode.

There’s also a lot about Brooks’ upcoming revamped women’s collection. Head over here for the full story. — CC

 
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