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Paul Stuart Debuts Edgy “Phineas” Label

Paul Stuart, the Madison Avenue men's store known for strict adherence to tradition and resistance to trends, is about to loosen up.

NEW YORK —  Paul Stuart, the Madison Avenue men’s store known for strict adherence to tradition and resistance to trends, is about to loosen up.

This week the retailer will introduce a relatively fashion-forward label, and company executives say the slim, modern Phineas Cole—the first new brand in Paul Stuart’s 69-year history—may eventually occupy a store of its own.

“The brand is a vehicle for the branding of Paul Stuart, but Phineas Cole also offers the potential for the selective rollout of future freestanding stores,” said Sandy Neiman, Paul Stuart’s director of merchandising, who came aboard two years ago as a consultant.

Based on the fictitious “errant nephew” of Paul Stuart, Phineas Cole is aimed at a younger, more contemporary man drawn to bold patterns and a slim silhouette.

According to Neiman, the initial collection of suits, sportswear, shirts and ties will appeal to well-educated, well-groomed men in their thirties who are comfortable mixing sartorial metaphors.

“Phineas Cole is geared to the younger man who already has style and knows how to dress, but wants to take his sartorial knowledge to the next level,” said Paul Stuart president Clifford Grodd. “He wants to trade up.”

Unlike classic Paul Stuart, Phineas’s shape is sleek and lean. Suit trousers sit lower on the hips, and they have clean lines thanks to on-seam pockets and the absence of belt loops. Neckties are narrow and bottle-shaped, while dress shirts have higher armholes, Phineas’s signature copper-colored gussets, and sewn-on labels printed with whimsical statements like “No sartorial cowardice” and “It is not a crime to be well-dressed.”

Custom-inspired suits and shirts will be numbered and available only in limited runs of 20. Once an item is sold out, Phineas Cole will not reproduce it. Retail prices range from $1,384 to $2,384 for suits, $228 to $275 for dress shirts, and $125 to $165 for neckwear.

An official launch party is set for Oct. 23, to be held in the new Phineas Cole section of the Madison Avenue flagship, which is housed under a campaign-style tent on the second floor of the store. Hosted by comedian and former Daily Show with Jon Stewart correspondent Mo Rocca, the fête is expected to attract a younger, edgier crowd than Paul Stuart is accustomed to.

The new line represents a marked departure for the seasoned retailer, which has been reluctant to stray too far from its clubby New York roots, and the company has embarked on a series of marketing initiatives to communicate its evolution to the younger demographic.

Since Neiman’s appointment two years ago he has helped create an Internet department, hiring two creative Web mangers and luring a Web merchant from Bergdorf Goodman. In addition to revamping Paul Stuart’s Web site, the new team has designed a separate Phineas Cole sub-site where the new line can be purchased; it is scheduled to go live this week. Phineas will also have his own cheeky blog, offering whimsical style tips and a forum for men to discuss their sartorial dressing needs.

The company is also in the beginning phases of a Phineas Internet advertising campaign, which Neiman said will likely appear in the lifestyle sections of financial Web sites of publications like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. “The Phineas customer is selective in what he’s reading and the Internet is a great place to speak to this guy,” said Neiman.

Additional branding strategies include the launch of a fragrance collection for both the Paul Stuart and Phineas Cole labels sometime next year, as well as the hard launch of a new women’s collection next spring. The company recently hired women’s designers away from Ralph Lauren and St. John to help expand Paul Stuart’s women’s line.

“This is really the enhancement, the extension and the evolution of Paul Stuart,” said Neiman.