It’s time for Black Fleece’s close-up.
This story first appeared in the January 14, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Thom Browne-designed label for Brooks Brothers will make its debut to retailers during a stand-alone presentation Tuesday at the 10 Corso Como specialty store-gallery space in Milan.
Browne will unveil his interpretation of iconic Brooks Bros. offerings such as the mismatched wool tattersall suit and cashmere cardigan with a matching wool bow tie. Other key looks for fall will include a repp stripe in woven and knit fabrics, Browne said. The designer will offer 12 styles each for men and women, but may edit the number of women’s looks at the presentation to concentrate on men’s wear during fashion week.
For Browne, the opportunity to show Black Fleece in Europe is a testament to the evolution of the collection, which launched at Brooks Bros. in fall 2007.
“It’s good to see the collection succeeding, and a great opportunity for many of the European editors and buyers to see it,” he said.
Browne expects the “quintessential pieces that are derived from iconic Brooks Bros. styles” will be the most popular with stores across the pond.
Lou Amendola, chief merchandising officer for Brooks Bros., said the collection, which was initially focused on men’s suits, shirts and ties, has grown significantly in the past two years and now offers a comprehensive sportswear offering as well.
“It’s really a sportswear collection that has clothing,” he said. Women’s, which Amendola expects to appeal to overseas buyers, has been improved and is “more feminine and flowing.”
Price points for men’s and women’s are also more friendly, he said.
Amendola said opening up the collection to selective wholesale accounts in Europe came about after the company realized Black Fleece could stand on its own outside of Brooks stores. The first Black Fleece store opened on Bleecker Street in lower Manhattan last year, and a second is to open on Fillmore Street in San Francisco next month.
“We have experienced a double-digit increase over plan in the first year on Bleecker Street,” Amendola said. “That exceeded our expectations.”
At the same time, he said Brooks Bros. received inquiries from other retailers — Corso Como and Biffi in Milan and Tomorrowland in Japan — expressing interest in carrying the Black Fleece line.
“So we said, ‘Let’s take the opportunity to show the collection,’” Amendola said, noting Brooks Bros. is also exploring the idea of opening additional freestanding stores and shop-in-shop concepts around the world.
After the Milan presentation, Black Fleece will be shown to European and Asian retailers in a showroom at Via Alessandra, 3 in Milan from Jan. 21 through Feb. 15.
In the U.S., Black Fleece shirts and ties are carried in Neiman Marcus, the only other distribution outside of Brooks Bros. and the Bleecker Street store.