Even Traditional Customers Like Something Fresh

690_518_a1077fd32b2b839829fdbae7b447baf7

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

50 Comments on "Even Traditional Customers Like Something Fresh"

  1. Mountain Cat Prep | March 25, 2015 at 11:04 am |

    As a guy who requires slim fits from Brooks Brothers constantly, I am totally for Brooks Brothers catering to a European style more in the future.

  2. At least Luca didn’t say, “Hope and Change”. 😉

  3. All I can really read is, “Blah, blah, blah, hopefully there is enough market share between J. Crew and Ralph Lauren for us to fit in there somewhere.”

    I find it fascinating how most people somehow connected to men’s clothing seem to think that the soft-shouldered shrunken jacket is somehow the ideal Form of men’s dress. You get the distinct sense that men are under the belief that this Neapolitan (or whatever you wish to call it) is the apex predator of sartorial choices and we will never, ever need/want anything else.

    TL;DR As usual, do we really even need Brooks Brothers anymore? Does anyone?

  4. James Redhouse | March 25, 2015 at 2:02 pm |

    Re: “Even very traditional customers like the idea of bringing something fresh to their wardrobe.”

    The only new thing I like in my wardrobe is a tie, shirt, jacket, or pair of trousers exactly like one I’ve already got.

  5. BB has gone way down hill in just the last decade. It’s sad, really.

  6. Fashions come and fashions go. They don’t last forever. European clothing such as French- or Italian-style tight shirts, tight jackets, and tight trousers had a certain popularity in the early 1970’s and then their popularity in the U.S. faded. So if people are trying to sell European-style clothing again, it isn’t something new and it isn’t likely to stay around forever.

    As Fran Lebowitz said recently in an interview: “When we were young, we knew things. We knew basic history, even as it related to fashion. Now, when something reappears, an 18 year old has no clue that it’s a revival. Despite the fact that they’re almost always online they don’t get references.”

    http://www.elle.com/fashion/personal-style/interviews/a27447/fran-lebowitz-style-interview/

  7. Fran Lebowitz, who wears men’s shirts, from interview in Elle:

    “I used to buy all my shirts at Brooks [Brothers], but that was completely ruined about 20 years ago. They discontinued the shirt I liked. If I had only known this—I mean, if you’re going to discontinue an item that thousands and thousands of people buy, announce it. Say, ‘We will no longer be making our excellent Brooks Brothers cotton shirts that we made for 5,000 years. We’re going to change them in some awful way. We’re alerting you so you can buy a lifetime supply.’ Shirts don’t go bad, they’re not peaches.”

  8. Roy R. Platt | March 25, 2015 at 6:13 pm |

    Is there a contest to come up with a caption for the picture of the boy with long hair and the scraggly beard and mustache?

    If there is, my entry is, “Would you buy a used car from this man”?

  9. Caption contest entry:

    Thought balloon: “No, no, that will never do. The suit needs darts, two vents, and nicely padded shoulders. And the bagginess! That must go.”

  10. Henry, Funny… reminds me of my first job in the early 80’s. Was with a firm where conservative dress was the code. When anyone came into the office wearing a Euro tailored suite with no vents, one of the senior guys would approach welding scissors and ask the transgressor if he’d like a vent cut in his suit coat. Today that would probably result in another type of suit – a harassment suit. Those were the days..

    Cheers, BC

  11. James Redhouse writes: “The only new thing I like in my wardrobe is a tie, shirt, jacket, or pair of trousers exactly like one I’ve already got.”

    Yep, and that’s why it’s called “traditional”.

    Most attire, either consciously on unconsciously, is some sort of class signaling device. This Italian doesn’t seem to “get” that some of us are not interested by – or even cognizant of – his class signaling devices.

  12. @BC: The firm I work at is still the same. Though the jokes are not so out in the open as they used to be… Thanks compliance. Behind office doors not much has changed since our grandfathers sat in the offices.

  13. Imagine you guys at Langrock in 1965 — or, say, The Andover Shop today — saying “Yes, you have lots of new jacket fabrics and necktie patterns but I’ll take the same old, thank you very much.”

  14. The “same old” can be reinterpreted in a variety of ways.

    The issue here is that the fellow doesn’t even understand classic Brooks style. He references a “broad shoulder.” That’s not old, classic Brooks.

    The problem is that, in fact, Brooks is absolutely, stubbornly boring. Yes, boring. They offer the same repp stripes year after year after year. So much midnight navy blue and charcoal grey. Their tweeds, mostly mass produce doube-width Harris in lighter weights, are SO bland. Snoozeville.

    As for The Andover Shop–they, like Ben Silver, seem to be doing a few interesting things (still). I’d like to see more glen checks and melange flannels, but still.

    If you want to do classic American style right, you gotta go bespoke. Things have come all the back around–to that point when (we may safely guess) about 5% of the American male population wore Scottish tweeds and West of England flannels with any frequency.

    This isn’t a bad thing. The look, expensive and hard to find, isn’t often seen. I suspect we overestimate the % of men who, during the “Heyday” years, wore Ivy-done-well. A lot of the stuff, I’ll guess, amounted to poly-this and poly-that. And some shoddy tailoring.

    Apropos the piece–it would be great if Brooks’ designers were willing to work with some of the British Isles’ better weavers (of tweed, worsteds, flannels, silks, Irish Poplin) to create a really interesting line. Wouldn’t it be great if they worked with Greenfield and Southwick’s master tailors to add a few details–bellows patch pockets and 6/16″ top stitching, for instance–that freshen the look? Is this likely? No.

  15. In the spirit of piling on, there seems to be an addiction, prevalent among modern-day designers, to visible–nay, prominent–front darts. Never mind that shaping can be achieved much more subtly and gracefully by a skilled tailor. I just don’t get it. They interrupt the pattern of jackets and suits that feature a stripe or check, and, in most instances, call attention to the awkward (poorly tailored) “suppression” from the chest to the skirt. Years ago, upon hearing that Ralph Lauren was planning to introduce a line of RRL tweeds (wonderfully heavy Harris he had custom woven), I guessed that it would a be (if I may) “genuine authentic”–a throwback to the early 20th century tailoring that the RRL line was supposed to call to mind. Everything was right–except the darts.

  16. Well what are we discussing then? Yes, the remark about broad-shouldered was innacurate. But my comment was not aimed at the Brooks CEO, but the two readers who just wanted the same clothing items over and over.

    I would say to them, and others reading this: please don’t confuse the personal preference for a small number of acceptable items with the Ivy League Look as a whole. The countless historic images, texts, ads, anecdotes and comments on this website reveal that at one time there was tremendous variety within the parameters of the genre.

  17. The issue in question reminds me of something Richard Press mentioned in one of his classic pieces. He remarked on not buying the same patterns, etc., each year but varying them. Or the disagreement he had with his uncle(?) over introducing 4″ ties. So it’s not dogma, but variations, and even some departures, in relation to a recognizable set of principles that define the general style.

    Brooks also changed lapel and tie widths with the times, and introduced synthetic blend fabrics. But modeling Brooks on continental style is a different order of change.

  18. I’m Italian,and o course i love the classic Italian tailored style.
    But i also know and respect the American Ivy League,so i said that Italians REALLY don’t understand the Ivy sack style.
    Not matter how much are professionals in the clothing field; don’t understand the style and the importance of certain details.
    Nevertheless…the marriage between Ivy and olive leaf (Italy) it would be possible:
    Think a Neapolitan coat (natural shoulders soft interior,three buttons roll two) undarted and with an hook vent.
    Hell,possibility would be endless if someone of these guys understood the style!

  19. I have no doubt that everything Carmelo says is true. Contrast this with the Japanese owners of J Press, who do appear to understand the Ivy League look. National character has something to do with it, no doubt, but there’s also experience and perspective. I have a hard time imagining something as boring as the Ivy League look ever being popular in Italy, yet it seems perfect for the Japanese. Indeed, the Ivy League look was popular in Japan, and still has a devoted fan base, even if it is a minority.

    S.E., I think that Ralph Lauren’s clothes have long (always?) been his reinterpretation of classics. I don’t have the experience with his clothes that many of the other readers & commenters do, but I don’t recall ever encountering an undarted Ralph Lauren jacket, regardless of brand; similarly, he has always gone for four cuff buttons, sometimes three (I think), but never two. Perhaps he recognized the limited appeal of the sack suit, and decided to borrow the look without copying it exactly—and therein lies his genius. He didn’t build a multibillion-dollar empire by reproducing Brooks Brothers’ clothes; he did it by taking inspiration from Brooks, and others, and making those things his own.

    And excellent marketing. And high quality. And hard work. And a constellation of other factors, but certainly a large part of his success is due to his interpretation of the classics.

  20. Minimalist Trad | March 26, 2015 at 1:21 am |

    One wonders whether the new name of the firm will be Fratelli Brooks or Fratelli Ruscelli?

  21. The comment section disgust at Gastaldi’s is pretty suprising to me. This man is an executive at Brooks Brothers in 2015…Brooks Brothers has been making ugly, shoulder padded suits since at least the ’80s. When he calls “roomy and broad-shouldered” suits “traditional,” I’m pretty certain he didn’t mean Trad as in the term people here use to describe their personal style. At this point Brooks Bros has been making ugly, boxy suits for nearly 40 years–I’m pretty sure that makes it a tradition. That’s how I understood his comments anyway.

    I am going to have to agree with our Italian friend Carmelo here–I think that today’s Brooks Brothers could take a lot of cues from Italian suiting. Soft shouldered, three-two roll is a staple of Neapolitan style that Brooks would do well to emulate (or return to, I suppose). Sure, prominent darts are not great, but modern Brooks Brothers suits already have darts (with a few exceptions).

    In my opinion, Brooks Brothers suits made by Isaia Napoli and Polo suits made by Corneliani are some of the nicest, softest tailored off-the-rack suits you can buy today. If this Gastaldi guy can bring back Brooks emphasis on soft tailoring, three-two roll, buttondowns and repp silk ties–more power to him. Seems like commenters are ignoring the crux of this story and using this as a venue to go off on Brooks Bros.

  22. Dutch Uncle | March 26, 2015 at 1:56 am |

    Yes, Press and campus Ivy shops did indeed vary the patterns, but we kept on gravitating toward herringbones and houndstooth checks in different shades of gray.

  23. This article just reinforces why I’ve purchased so few articles of clothing from BB’s over the past 30-years. It also reinforces to me, why Europeans should not own a traditional American clothing business. They have no clue about what the word traditional means when it comes to the American style. Euros don’t have to understand tradition when it comes to their clothing, as nothing remains in vogue long enough to ever become a tradition. Talk about cognitive dissonance: an Italian owning BB’s, well maybe not anymore.
    If these guys understood American tradition at all, they would know that true American clothing styles don’t change every season with every new fashion trend as do theirs. Europeans must have closets full of very expensive outdated clothing, due to their fashion trends that change with the seasons.

  24. Forgot to mention that were I interviewing him for a position, looking like he does in the pic above, it wouldn’t happen. Mr. Dudeness would need to reschedule after getting a haircut!

  25. Why do people still watch Superman movies, when he is essentially a character of the 1930s? It’s because DC has allowed each new generation of writers (after studying the originals) to produce their own “cover” of Superman which blends his fundamental nature with the writer’s own modern sensibility. It’s not about making Superman into Spiderman. This is the secret to preserving all old things; if you want to modernize the No. 1 sack, make it out of Army ripstop, or sweatsuit material, or Carhartt duck — don’t try to make it more Italian. If people abandon white bucks for sneakers, pry off the heel and sell it as a sneaker, rather than giving it a European chisel toe.

  26. @Henry

    Actually, Ralph Lauren’s Rugby line featured a “sack” coat. The Polo line includes one, as well. The “Russell” model. And I own two early PoloRL jackets that are, in fact, undarted.

  27. Correction. Past tense. Owned. I outgrew them and gave to consignment shop.

  28. Main Line Philly | March 26, 2015 at 7:19 am |

    @Delta

    You hit the nail on the head: some of us are are indeed disgusted by the Italian look.

  29. NaturalShoulder | March 26, 2015 at 7:25 am |

    Offering new fabrics and new colors would be great. Certainly there has been variance in lapel width over the years, but altering the design is what makes the change objectionable.

  30. @Minimalist Trad

    “Fratelli Ruscelli” used to be an in-house joke at BB, but it may one day be reality 🙁

  31. “I am going to have to agree with our Italian friend Carmelo here–I think that today’s Brooks Brothers could take a lot of cues from Italian suiting. Soft shouldered, three-two roll is a staple of Neapolitan style that Brooks would do well to emulate (or return to, I suppose). Sure, prominent darts are not great, but modern Brooks Brothers suits already have darts (with a few exceptions)”.

    Is perfectly possible make a Neapolitan suit with shirt-shoulder, without darts and with central hook vent.
    Or if someone want darts you can put slanted or curved-not frontal darts,in Florentine style.
    If you know the sack style and tradition you can marry he with the more close Italian cut.
    And you can add a bit of colors and patterns with beautiful italians fabrics.
    Charcoal sack?
    Yes,but why not with a tiny purple windowpane?

  32. Worried Man | March 26, 2015 at 12:36 pm |

    I think of all of the men I interact with on a regular basis in the real world and outside if Ivy-centric internet circles, I’m probably the only one that would put any emphasis on whether or not a jacket has darts. Men don’t care about that crap. I know quite a few men that dress very well in my estimation, and they all wear darted jackets and I don’t even think that feature enters into their minds. If they’re in an undarted jacket, I’d guess it’s an anomaly and if I were to mention “Oh, I see you’re jacket doesn’t have darts today,” they’d probably respond “huh?”

  33. Worried Man | March 26, 2015 at 12:39 pm |

    excuse my blatant grammatical and spelling errors

  34. Worried Man | March 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm |

    Oh… and I’ll agree that the guy would benefit from a haircut. I guess his current look might benefit him in the European market, but he looks like a weekend warrior just waiting to get out of his suit and tie and hit the stage on Friday night with his band, The Eurodarts.

  35. Straight Arrow | March 26, 2015 at 1:06 pm |

    My guess is that his customer has no undershirt beneath his sweater.

  36. Straight Arrow | March 26, 2015 at 1:07 pm |

    Or is that a t-shirt?

  37. “Euros don’t have to understand tradition when it comes to their clothing, as nothing remains in vogue long enough to ever become a tradition If these guys understood American tradition at all, they would know that true American clothing styles don’t change every season with every new fashion trend as do theirs. Europeans must have closets full of very expensive outdated clothing, due to their fashion trends that change with the seasons”.

    Well,this is a false impression caused by the reason that Italians firms (i don’t know if the same is for UK and France) export in USA the more fashionable production.
    For exemple can seem strange but in 80s in Italy NONE dressed the Armani’s baggy “power suits” that for some mysterious reason USA loved so much.
    More,many Italians that care about clothes goes to the tailor.
    Tailors are still several in Italian cities,and the average tailor takes around 1000-1200 euros for a suit.
    Obviously the style is classic and far by fashion fads.

  38. I agree with S.E. above — Brooks is just plain boring. That’s their biggest sin in my book.

    I don’t agree, though, with all of the commenters who say that Brooks “doesn’t understand the Ivy League look” or for that matter that Italian makers don’t. That’s patronizing and assumes that while we Americans have the intellectual horsepower to understand everything Italian, they don’t have the brains to understand Ivy or classic American. Fellas, they understand it — they’re just not going for it!

    And this: “True American clothing styles don’t change every season with every new fashion trend as do theirs.” Has enyone here other than Carmelo ever actually been to Italy? They are some of the most conservatively dressed men on the planet.

  39. J.I. Rodale | March 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm |

    @Sartre
    Italian men may choose suit fabrics in conservative colors worn with white shirts and solid navy ties, but when their suit jackets are at the very least 1 size too small and their trousers are skin-tight, I would hardly call that being “conservatively dressed”.

  40. “That’s patronizing and assumes that while we Americans have the intellectual horsepower to understand everything Italian, they don’t have the brains to understand Ivy or classic American. Fellas, they understand it — they’re just not going for it”!

    Is not this.
    From an Italian’s eye the unfitted traditional sack, with none waist suppression and ( in the more traditional specimens) high and spaced button stance..is ugly.
    From Italian sensibility is perceived as poorly cut.
    Back then were many jokes about the “Americans with jackets like overcoats”,and so.
    This is not chauvinism,simply Italians not understand why a jacket should be “like a sack” (in every sense).
    But here is another thing to said.
    The iconic image that Italians have to the American men is from movies.
    In Italy all admired Gregory Peck,Tyron Power,Cary Grant,Gary Cooper,and before Fred Astaire,William Powel,Clark Gable.
    In old movies the Ivy style is barely not represented; also in late 50s and 60s movies the actors dress in fitted and waist suppressed mid-atlantic jackets,
    So for the Italians a Ivy sack suit is simply a error to be corrected.

    P.S.
    This is a funny curiosity; a old Italian TV series (1965) on a beloved fictional character: Lieutenant Ezzy Sheridan,an “American” police officer.
    You can see the interpretation of American suits of Italian television costume department:
    Is not far from the today made in Italy Boorks Brothers:

    Enjoy (see at 39:25)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqd65SIvhYg&list=PLfklRgVdgI7OXkGOmNDS3t-UpqscxKmhl

  41. Bags' Groove | March 26, 2015 at 5:00 pm |

    Italians are not only the best dressers in the world, they’re also unafraid of long hair.

  42. @Bags' Groove | March 31, 2015 at 8:19 am |

    Italians are simply much, much better dressers and have better style than Americans. I am an American who lives in Europe and spends a good time in Paris, and can tell you the Parisians stomp the NYers in the style category. No comparison.

    Look like Grandpa on your own time. ;?)

  43. Bags' Groove | March 31, 2015 at 11:55 am |

    I say Christian, is it within the rules of this august club for a chap to filch another chap’s moniker?
    And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the bounder then rubs salt in the wound by bragging about the time he spends in Paris to a chap who lives with a few hours drive of the place, and knows it like the back of his proverbial. Mercifully the grandfather’s time nonsense went straight over this chap’s bean.

  44. No, that’s definitely not cricket.

  45. I think he meant it as a response to you BG

  46. I “feel your pain,” BG. There was a spell when someone else was posting under the moniker “Henry,” and I even contemplated rebranding myself as “Original Henry.”

    Perhaps I should call myself something less self-important, such as “Henry, Winner of the Ivy Style Comment Contest.”

  47. Bags' Groove | March 31, 2015 at 3:13 pm |

    Yes DCG, in my indignation (dramatised, i confess), I was remiss in not acknowledging his agreement with may assertion about Italians. He’s right about the French as well, of course. But one doesn’t want to encourage chaps who indulge in such masquerades. Though one does wonder if he wears white socks with his loafers, like Gene Kelly…

  48. Bags' Groove | March 31, 2015 at 3:25 pm |

    Thank you for those sympathetic words, Henry. Re rebranding (I couldn’t resist), faint heart never won fair lady, so go with the latter; it will make for many an absorbing exchange, I’m sure.

  49. All of this “old chap” stuff I’m reading is . . . what then? You are Americans, I would have thought? Is camp back in style, or?

  50. And reading the above, when someone uses the “@” sign, it generally means they are addressing a comment to a previous commenter. Old chap.

    You are welcome.

Leave a Reply