Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 02/27/2014

NEW YORK — Brooks Brothers is turning its attention to Red Fleece, its younger-skewed collection, for fall.

This story first appeared in the February 27, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For the first time, the retailer will offer a full collection for men and women, including a tailored clothing component. The men’s suits will be sold as separates and will retail for $698 for the package, Lou Amendola, chief merchandising officer, said during the company’s fall presentation earlier this month. Softly constructed sport coats will also be offered for $400.

“We tested it last fall and then again this spring,” he said, “but now we feel we have the right assortment and swatches” to offer a complete assortment. Among the pieces are slim, two-button suits with narrow lapels and plain-front pants, and herringbone or moleskin sport coats.

This fall and holiday, clothing “was one of the highlights” for the retailer, he said, justifying the investment into a new category of tailored apparel. “There is a real demand and we feel this will continue into fall ’14,” he said. “The new generation wants to look professional when they go to work.”

Red Fleece, the latest incarnation of what was internally referred to as the University collection, is targeted to a younger customer. In addition to the suits, the collection includes sportswear with pops of colors such as orange sweaters and skinny ties for men and pants for women. Much of the collection also features embroidery including dogs, ducks and other whimsical animal shapes on dresses, sweaters and hats. There are also Fair Isle sweaters, colorful chinos and toggle coats. “Everything is done with a little twist on preppy,” Amendola said.

Red Fleece is a primary focus in the company’s Flatiron store here, which opened in the fall of 2011, where it shares space with select pieces from the regular Brooks Bros. collection. Since that time, two Flatiron stores have opened in Italy and five in-store shops for Red Fleece are in the works for Japan. In addition, according to Brooks Bros.’ chief executive officer Claudio Del Vecchio, the company is looking for space for a Red Fleece flagship in South Korea. “We tested the University concept and now we’re there,” Del Vecchio said. The only thing that still needs work is the line’s denim offering. “We think we have a great opportunity there and we’re working on that.”

He noted that although intended to appeal to a young customer, the collection gets its inspiration from the same archive as the regular collection. Women’s also represents a higher percentage of sales in Red Fleece, he noted, around 30 percent versus 20 percent.

In its flagship collection this season, Brooks Bros. showcased a Nordic-inspired assortment of sweaters in gray, black and white. Vested suits were a statement in men’s while in women’s, more double-breasted blazers were shown. Fur was used in coats, collars and hats, and the retailer turned to traditional patterns such as Prince of Wales, herringbones, Harris tweeds, flannels and houndstooths in women’s and men’s wear. The signature Brooks Bros. tartan was updated and used in a red tone this time, and the retailer also partnered with Pendleton for a capsule collection of shirts, outerwear and accessories.

Much of the same sensibility was found in Black Fleece, the Thom Browne-designed collection, which used boiled and textured wool, argyle knits, herringbone wool, checks, plaids and Shetlands for this season’s collection. In men’s, shorter ticket pockets and tipped jackets were offered and formalwear focused on navy accents such as a tonal argyle jacket and a navy/black houndstooth jacket and trouser.

In women’s, the offering is more feminine than ever with full skirts, lace accents and pleats in dresses and skirts.

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