NEW YORK — The Black Fleece era at Brooks Brothers is coming to an end.
WWD has learned that the fall 2015 season will be the last for the Thom Browne-designed label, which was introduced in 2007.
The store will sell through the final season and put the collection on hiatus for at least a year before deciding if it will be revived at a later date with either Browne or an internal team overseeing the design.
“We are very proud of Black Fleece and view the project as a success on many levels,” said Brooks Brothers’ chief executive officer Claudio Del Vecchio. “Working with Thom Browne has been a true collaboration and in developing the collection over the last eight years, we learned a great deal from each other. We have mutually decided to suspend the Black Fleece label in order to focus on other strategic initiatives; however, Thom has become, and will remain, not only a friend but also a part of Brooks Brothers’ history.”
Browne did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
“When we started the line in 2007,” said Lou Amendola, chief merchandising officer for Brooks Brothers, “it was supposed to be a three-year project. But we were very pleased with it and kept renewing the contract.”
Adding that in fashion, “nothing is forever,” Amendola said Brooks Brothers decided to put its energies into other projects, including the expansion of its younger-skewed Red Fleece label as well as the women’s line, which is currently being revamped.
Last June, Brooks Brothers hired Zac Posen to serve as creative director for its mainline women’s collection and accessories. His first collection will hit stores in spring 2016. Women’s accounts for around 20 percent of the company’s sales.
“So we had a discussion with Thom and he also had other things he wanted to do, so we thought it was a good time to stop [Black Fleece],” Amendola said.
When Del Vecchio brought Browne on board eight years ago to design the new Black Fleece label as a guest designer, he admitted it was a “p.r. move,” designed to create buzz for the venerable retailer. Although there were some growing pains, the line managed to attract a following and was continued. Industry sources estimate the volume to be $10 million.
Brooks Brothers also opened two freestanding Black Fleece stores in the U.S. — in Greenwich Village in New York City and in San Francisco — as well as a store in Hong Kong. A spokesperson said no decision has been made on what to do with those stores after the last collection is sold.
Amendola stressed that the parting with Browne was amicable and the label is “resting. It’s part of our archives. But in this challenging retail environment, we want to support Red Fleece and our women’s initiative and the pie’s only so big. So you have to pick your spots.”
He said that Browne is now “part of our history and he taught us a lot.” It showed the company that there was a market for slimmer, more modern silhouettes, which have now become a significant part of the brand’s overall assortment, he added.
For Browne, the designer recently established an in-house tailoring facility to develop a hand-made tailored clothing collection that will launch for spring. For fall 2014, he introduced a line centered around the classic gray suit under the Thom Browne name. The runway collection is named Thom Browne New York.
The designer sold a majority stake in his business to Japan’s Cross Company in 2009 when sales were $6.3 million. He operates a shop in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood as well as a unit in Tokyo.