While many menswear retailers are shuttering in the wake of the virus and its economic aftermath, a new “updated trad” shop, Junior’s, has opened. Based in Philadelphia, it was founded by Glenn Au, a veteran of O’Connell’s and H. Stockton.
Contributing writer Eric Twardzik investigates.
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Glenn Au may have named his new made-to-measure business “Junior’s,” but the 32-year-old is no newcomer to the world of traditional American style. A Buffalo native, Au started his menswear career by working at O’Connell’s after learning they stocked Alden shoes. He later joined the team at John B. Rourke in Savannah, before finding employment at H. Stockton in Atlanta. Along the way, Au picked up a little something from each of the classic men’s shops.
“O’Connell’s is where I learned about the genuine article, the importance of quality manufacturing and how important a web presence is. At John B. Rourke I fell in love with the possibilities and fit of a custom garment. And at H. Stockton I learned about customer relationships, and it’s where I took on the most responsibility as their E-Commerce Manager and Social Media Manager along with being part of the buying team,” he says.
It’s easy to see the Philadelphia-based Junior’s, which officially launched in July, as a modern incarnation of the classic American haberdashery. Like the campus shops of yore, Junior’s offers made-to-measure suits, sportcoats and shirts that are produced at American factories, along with a selection of ready-to-wear items sourced from Great Britain and Italy. Unlike those traditional brick-and-mortar stores, Junior’s has neither brick nor mortar. In fact, you might say that Junior’s is wherever Au happens to be—which if you make an appointment, could mean your home, your office, or a hotel pop-up.
While this nomadic model seems uniquely fitted to our current moment, Au says his idea for it predates the pandemic.
“The business plan to start Junior’s is the same now as its was pre-quarantine life. I planned to do made-to-measure by appointment wherever the client is most comfortable and debut the e-commerce for Fall 2020… now with the virus, the social distancing, and overall concern about being in crowds and public places, a private appointment is more favorable than ever.”
As for the clothing you may be measured for, there’s a healthy dose of Ivy in Junior’s DNA, along with English and Italian touches. “I think a lot of the influence goes back to my foundations and the people I learned from along the way in the industry,” Au says. “I’m personally attracted to the Ivy, English and Italian aesthetics and try to pick bits from each to create my own look, and a look that I promote to clients in a way that works best for them.”
The house style is marked by a natural shoulder and a 3/2 roll, and clients can opt to go “fully Ivy” by requesting patch pockets, a hooked center vent, and lapped seams. “This is the style I was raised on and applying it to made-to-measure garments has become second nature to me and for my clients,” Au says. Just as importantly, the fabric selection errs in the trad direction. “I have cloth that aligns perfectly with what I once heard Jay Walter of J. Press say, ‘Cloth with no shine.’ To me that means Harris Tweed in all colors and patterns, Scottish tweed and district checks from Abraham Moon, worsted allsport from Hardy Minnis, hard-wearing wool fresco and heavy-duty cotton twill,” Au says.
While Junior’s offers close to 100 collar options for its shirting, Au seems most enthusiastic about its button-down collar, which is made to his precise specifications. “The word designed is too fancy for what happened. Basically, I played around with the numbers until I got what I wanted and what we see now,” says Au. “The length of the collar is 3.5”, and it is lined and fused to the lightest levels my shirtmaker can do. Combining those elements, along with the collar band height, creates that great-looking roll.”
Aside from the made-to-measure offerings, Junior’s will sell Alden Shoes (which they can special order from the footwear maker), Shetland sweaters, English-made ancient madder ties, lambswool knit caps, rugby shirts, cotton canvas trousers in an “updated Ivy fit,” and even pens and pencils.
“Everything is made in the USA, England, Scotland or Italy. Sweaters to pencils,” Au says.
Even considering its nimble business model and Au’s enthusiasm, it seems fair to ask how Junior’s will succeed at a time when many sellers of traditional American style have been struggling, even before coronavirus. “I think as far as the men’s clothing industry goes for small shops, we are at a fork in the road,” Au says. “One fork leads to slowly fading away and the other fork leads to developing our business and adapting to the changing world.” The path Junior’s has taken emphasizes customer connection, and the ability to offer something exclusive. “Customer service, in my opinion, is more important than ever. Some of my best clients have become friends over the years. Another way to adapt, I believe, is to develop your own product. At Junior’s, I want to show product to a customer that they won’t find in other stores,” Au says.
In addition to operating on a by-appointment basis in Philadelphia, Au plans to occasionally bring Junior’s on the road, starting with a visit to Atlanta from August 14-16th. He also expects to launch an e-commerce side of the website in the fall to sell Junior’s ready-to-wear clothing and accessories.
And someday, there might even be a physical space for the upstart haberdasher to call home. “It’s a big part of the dream! So, the short answer is yes, I want there to be a Junior’s store front. The timing of that is just up in the air right now, and a goal I will work towards,” Au says. — ERIC TWARDZIK