Browne’s Black Ops

Thom Browne Black Fleece

The Wall Street Journal just published a detailed article on Black Fleece, the forthcoming, highly-anticipated Brooks Brothers line designed by Thom Browne, the trad yet avant-garde designer:

Can Brooks Brothers appeal to a younger, hipper customer?

Next month, the privately held haberdashery will launch the biggest print-ad campaign in its 189-year history to introduce Black Fleece, a high-end collection by avant-garde designer Thom Browne. It’s part of the retailer’s broader effort to signal that it’s keeping up with the times and to draw in new customers.

Featuring clothes by Mr. Browne, known for ankle-baring gray-flannel suits and cropped jackets, is a departure for the venerable Brooks Brothers. Mr. Browne’s suits developed a cult following as the slender, 5-foot-10 budding designer sported them around New York’s Meatpacking District, where he began his own business in his apartment in 2001…

The Brooks Brothers collaboration with Mr. Browne is the latest effort to reach new customers, with a strategy now widely used in fashion and retail. Just as the brand Louis Vuitton became hip again under designer Marc Jacobs and Target Corp. upped its stores’ cool factor with Isaac Mizrahi, fashion marketers today “can’t operate without having a cutting-edge designer name,” says David Wolfe, creative director of Doneger Group retail consultants. “Thom Browne allows Brooks to layer in a designer name that has nothing to do with its core business, but enhances the image and cachet – that helps them move the regular merchandise.”…

It remains to be seen how Mr. Browne’s collection at Brooks Brothers will go over with customers. Mr. Browne’s fans won’t see his name on the label, which features the Brooks Brothers fleece logo in black rather than gold. Though not as extreme as his own label, which will continue to sell at other stores, the clothes have a decidedly close-to-the-body fit. Men’s sizes go up to only a 46-chest jacket. All the pants in the collection, however, come with unfinished bottoms that can be hemmed the way the customer wants and don’t have to be as short as Mr. Browne wears them.

On Brooks Brothers chief merchandising officer Lou Amendola, who has been working closely with Mr. Browne, a gray-flannel style that he was test-driving looked like a snugger version of a Brooks Brothers suit. He says Black Fleece is aimed at an “attractive 30-plus, young professional who needs to dress up but wants a little bit more of a style to conservative clothing.”…

Brooks Brothers plans displays of Black Fleece items on tables with jackets opened so customers can study the handwork that went into the garments….

Mr. Browne, who will make appearances at several Brooks Brothers stores, including one near his hometown of Allentown, Pa., acknowledges that his styles could take some getting used to. But he says that once men put on the jackets, they’ll discover that they can move their arms despite the snugger fit. “People don’t realize fitted clothes make you look thinner,” he says.

Izzy wholeheartedly agrees with the sentiment, and is eager to check out the new line when it debuts.

One Response to “Browne’s Black Ops”

  1. Greg July 18, 2007 at 7:31 pm #

    Men.style.com had a slideshow of the complete collection when it was presented to the media back in March.

    I covet the grey flannel down vest. And the orange-lined checked mackintosh. And the white-trimmed navy morning coat. And… a pair of the shorts? Why not?

    In any case, I’m excited.