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British American House Changing Names

What’s in a name? For Philip Pravda, everything.

The new Pravada log.

What’s in a name? For Philip Pravda, everything.

This story first appeared in the July 9, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The fourth-generation to run the British American House men’s specialty store is changing the name of the business to better reflect its merchandise mix and history. And so the store will now be called Pravda Abbigliamento (e Calzature dal 1908). The Pravda part is to reflect the family name, while Abbigliamento e Calzature dal 1908 means “apparel and footwear since 1908” in Italian.

Ironically, although the name of the store is British American House, nearly all the merchandise is from Italian vendors and includes Canali, Belvest and Italo Ferretti.

“This will show that we are Italian-based,” Pravda, 41, said. He’s taking over the business from his father Paul, 68, who ran British American House since 1979.

The family has a long history of retailing in New York, starting in 1908 when Philip’s great-grandfather opened a men’s second-hand clothing store with inventory acquired from deceased men. Alfred, Philip’s grandfather, opened a men’s store named Alfred’s in 1941 and also operated The Stag Shop on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village. In 1962, Alfred opened the House of Cromwell on Lexington Avenue at 55th Street, the first of the family’s stores to carry international labels.

Over the years, British American House has operated several units in New York City, but the store at 488 Madison Avenue is the sole remaining one. In its heyday, there were three stores within 10 blocks of each other in Midtown. Today, the retailer boasts a client base, which includes international heads-of-state, celebrities, businessmen and sports stars including Stephen Sondheim, Stanley Tucci and Emeril Lagasse, according to Pravda.

The bulk of the mix is tailored clothing and furnishings and prices are squarely in the luxury arena, with Canali suits opening at $1,450 and Belvest at $3,000. Handmade Italian suits can run as high as $10,000. The company is launching a private label line designed by Pravda and manufactured in Italy under the Pravda Abbigliamento label. Prices for suits will range from $995 to $1,295. Shirts ($165 to $245) will be offered as well as ties, which will retail for $165.

Although the luxury retail sector has been getting hammered during the recession, Pravda said, “Luxury is alive and well at Pravda, and despite the current economic climate, there will always be a customer for ‘the best.’”

To celebrate the name change, the company is launching a new Web site and will host a 101st anniversary event as well this fall. The in-store event will allow customers to buy one suit and get a second for $101.