Il Pastore: Brooks Brothers’ Del Vecchio and the Billion-Dollar Flock

The latest issue of Menswear — the consumer magazine put out by trade pub WWD Men’s — features a profile on Brooks Brothers CEO Claudio Del Vecchio, shepherd of the Golden Fleece empire, which will pass $1 billion in sales this year.

Fairchild Publications has kindly ungated the story for Ivy Style readers.

Old-school types may have a tough time swallowing some of the quotes, such as:

“We have a healthy respect for the past, but we’re not completely influence by it,” Del Vecchio says. From the outset, he explains, his plan was to be “an innovator, not a conservator.”

Of course, it was Brooks Brothers’ innovation that gave us the pink oxford, the Number One Sack Suit, rep ties going angled in the American direction, and everything else the company is famous for. It never stood still — companies that stand still don’t last for two centuries. It’s just that a certain segment believes it reached a state of perfection between the ’50s and the ’80s and wishes it would stay frozen in that mold.

The article boasts several bits of trivia:

• Del Vecchio lives on Long Island
• His father is the second-richest man in Italy, and 59th on the Forbes billionaire list
• Luxottica (the company his father founded, and where Del Vecchio began his career) was the first foreign company to go public on the NYSE before going public in its own country.

Finally, the article reveals that two of Brooks Brothers’ potential suitors during the troubled Marks & Spencer years included Men’s Wearhouse and Polo Ralph Lauren.

One can’t help but wonder how the company would be different today with either of those two as stewards.

Click here for the complete article. — CC

16 Comments on "Il Pastore: Brooks Brothers’ Del Vecchio and the Billion-Dollar Flock"

  1. Perhaps he is an innovator; however, having all of the stock manufactured in China isn’t particularly novel.

  2. Jim Kelleth | April 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    I’m now at the age of what I used to think was the stalwart Brooks Bros. customer only to have them abandon much of the style that made the company a legend. So much for 45 years of loyalty. A couple of years ago, I asked a young salesman where I could find their club ties. Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about. Thank God for J. Press.

    Still I have my BB account along with a corporate discount card, but I use them less and less.

  3. Richard Meyer | April 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    BB stuff is mostly mediocre or worse. The once elegant ties and dress shirts are poor ant in questionable taste, and as for “no-iron” stuff…
    J.Press, Andover and, for bespoke /MTM Winston Tailors and Mercer shirts have kept the faith. Reward them with your business.

  4. @Richard Meyer; Not sure about “mostly mediocre or worse” and “ties and dress shirts in questionable taste”. Yes, BB may not be what it once was in the ‘glory days of yore’ and they may have experimented a bit too far into some unknown areas, but they still sell good products. Their off the rack pants fit and hold up really well and their tie selection is still quite good. I’ve also been pleased with recent dress shirts from them (but I am for the slim fit).
    Is your critique of the actual product or more in the customer service side of the business?

  5. Main Line | April 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |

    “We have a healthy respect for the past…”

    He certainly has a funny way of showing it.

    I’m afraid that his actions speak louder than his words.

  6. Old School | April 6, 2011 at 9:50 pm |

    @Jim Kelleth

    Fortunately, the staff at J. Press do know what club ties are although their website calls such ties “emblematic”.
    (I’m pretty sure we called them “club figure” ties in the early 60s).

    The young staff at Brooks Brothers don’t know what wool challis ties are, either. (O’Connell’s and Ben Silver do, however).

    I wonder if they’ve ever heard of paisley.

    “Del Vecchio has a deep appreciation of heritage…”

    No comment.

  7. Jim Kelleth | April 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

    I have to disagree with you, Niles. Good luck finding a challis or Ancient Madder tie at Brooks. And in the past couple of years, most of their patterns are god awful. I’ll still buy their shirts, cords and sweaters, but get all of my ties, suits and sports jackets from Press.

  8. Bill Stephenson | April 7, 2011 at 6:16 am |

    Points made by Mr Meyer, and Niles are both well taken.

    Mr Meyer and I have very similar taste, and both became BB customers when you could buy everything you needed at 346. It was all superb, as was JP, but without the shoes, and some accessories, etc. at JP.

    Those days are long gone, and beating up on BB has become a leading indoor sport on many Ivy type message boards. It just highlights the need to pick and choose, get the things you want from various Ivy sources.

    Look at the advertisers in the margins of IS. You can go to JP, OCLS, and Mercer, and get just about anything that you could have gotten at BB in @1975. You just have to go to several sources and know what you are looking for.

    I’d particularly recommend Collared Greens for polo shirts, click on their site here (fantastic shirts!). One source that gets a bad rap is J Banks. IMO, their trousers are superb. Inexpensive, well tailored, the equivalent of BB, at a much more reasonable price, and the “travel crease” is a real plus.

    A bit like an Easter egg hunt, but makes places like IS worthwhile for people like us.

  9. Anyone else get a “malware” warning when they click on the Collard Greens ad on the site? Perhaps their site got hacked and malicious code inserted? I’m browsing in safari but the warning seems to be from google?

    @Christian – any ideas?

  10. Christian | April 7, 2011 at 7:51 am |

    You’re right, Niles. I’ll look into it. Many thanks.

  11. Christian | April 7, 2011 at 7:57 am |

    Update from Collared Greens: Problem fixed, warning should disappear by tomorrow.

  12. Jim Kelleth | April 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    You’re right, Old School. Club or Emblematic, at least Press knows what they are…..and still carries them. I’ve also ordered a few ancient madder four-in-hand and bow ties from Drake’s of London. I’m new to this blog, but I’m sure that Drake’s in not. They’re wonderful.

  13. supernova | April 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm |

    This article is just another indicator that Brooks has become all things to all men. Instead of trying stay original and true to the company’s traditional roots, Mr. Del Vecchio has made every effort to make money and this article is basically bringing this fact to the light. Like one of their “old school” salesman told me a while back, “everytime a new company/owner purchases Brooks for some reason they try to reinvent the wheel! They don’t seem to understand that the wheel has already been invented…”

    Imagine if Mr. Lauren would have purchased Brooks instead of Mr. Del Vecchio? I can only imagine it would probably be better than it is now, in my opinion. Really? Men’s Warehouse! I guess it could always be worse…

  14. Man of the Past | April 7, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    @Jim Kelleth

    The “ancient madder” and “silk foulard” ties offered by Drakes of London look like the ties that Brooks Brothers used to sell before its decline and fall.

    Today, even J. Press can’t compete with Drakes, when it comes to ancient madder and silk foulard offerings.

  15. Richard Meyer | April 8, 2011 at 3:30 am |

    Niles: I’m specifically taliking about the BB products. I do still get my undies and some dress slacks there, but the suits, sport coats, shirts and ties are not to compare with the BB of old, which was a truly great men’s store, and are for the most part inferior by far to Press and Andover.
    Do remember that the BB of old, of course, was limited to a rather small number of stores in major cities. Now they are all over the place, many in rather non-descript malls and airports.
    In addition, the salespersons at Press and Andover are, in general, far more knowledgable about clothes, to say the least.

  16. Richard Meyer | April 8, 2011 at 3:32 am |

    Bill Stephenson’s comments are right on.

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