Polo Shirt Protocol Edition

1213critic2-popupIn this week's Thursday Styles, Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica takes on the newest incarnation of Brooks Brothers on Broadway near Union Square. He frames his observations around the question of the popped collar and what exactly it means, an age-old controversy among wearers of polo shirts that is unlikely to be settled with one more newspaper article. This device is presented as a message from a "Bro" in a sartorial quandary. As usual, he entirely ignores the women's half of the store, which, in this case, may be appropriate, since the retailer has yet to define a stronger image for that part of its business.

Caramanica is divided, once again by the store which collects the most casual of Brooks Brothers lines in a college-themed outlet. He appreciates care taken in creating the store's ambiance, but notes that as much as he likes some of the offerings, not all of the merchandise has been developed enough to match its setting.

...plenty of Brooks Brothers styles make Gant Rugger look like Givenchy. Pastel sweaters with ribbed V-necks ($79.50) had a faint sheen (though the cashmere ones were fine). At the sight of the muted plaid scarves ($98), my shopping companion said, “This is the scarf you buy if you want to look like one of those ‘Nutcracker’ toys.”

Ultimately, he concludes that, "Unifying Brooks Brothers’ many collections proves to be not as seamless or meaningful a strategy as it sounds."

Critical Shopper: Welcome to Brooks Brothers, a k a Fraternity Row By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Brooks Brothers Flatiron Shop 901 Broadway at 20th Street, Flatiron District


Brooks Brothers Heads Higher
On Broadway

Brooks Brothers will be continuing its intriguing expansion program this Spring when it opens another Upper West Side branch at the corner of Broadway and 87th Street. The most recent occupant of this recently refurbished space was a pop-up store promoting Uniqlo's larger store openings this past Fall.

From the signage outside, we are guessing that this particular unit will be merchandised similarly to the one directly across town at 86th and Madison which carries men's and women's apparel, but focuses particularly on children's clothes. Brooks Brothers already has a more expansive men's and women's store near Lincoln Center, but the window imagery on this upcoming location suggests a sportier, more family-oriented location which would fit with the neighborhood (UPDATE: The window imagery reads: "Men, Women and Children" which should be a pretty telling clue). This will be the preppy retailer's eighth store in Manhattan including the specialized Black Fleece store on Bleecker Street, and the just opened Flatiron Shop near Union Square. Its neighbors will be other chains like Ann Taylor, Talbots, Club Monaco and Banana Republic, but Brooks Brothers should bring a new dimension to the West Side retail scene which leans heavily toward women's apparel. Even other chains that sell men's clothes in their other Manhattan stores like Club Monaco, Reiss, Theory and Rag & Bone eschew it in their West Side stores. Why this is, we have no idea, but on a long stretch of boutique-heavy Columbus Avenue, we recently counted only Burberry, Sean and longtime men's clothier Frank Stella as selling upscale men's apparel (and, no, we aren't counting Patagonia or Century 21). Perhaps Brooks Brothers' arrival on Upper Broadway this Spring will attract more men's stores to a part of town where there are plenty of men with plenty of money to spend.

Now Open: Brooks Brothers' Flatiron Shop Courts The Collegiates


Brooks Brothers' Flatiron Shop Courts The Collegiates

It would be the worst possible timing for a store to open its doors just as its building is about to be covered in scaffolding, but that's what has happened to Brooks Brothers' Flatiron Shop, its seventh Manhattan store, which opened its doors over the weekend at Broadway and 20th Street. We peeked inside last week as the store's finishing touches were being put in place, and the store has been made over to resemble a posh fraternity. Think more Porcellian Club than Animal House.

BrooksBrosFlatiron-DownstairsUpstairs is all dark polished wood with a register counter that begs to be stocked with scotch and bourbon. The upstairs loft has been turned over to serious lounging with a giant television, while the basement is where the party would happen with a foosball table, arcade games and that retro-amusement du jour, a photo booth. All that's missing  are a few red Solo cups tossed around from last night's kegger. Of course, all this Ralph Lauren-level art direction is meant to serve the merchandise which is mostly edited to focus on the brand's younger "collegiate" label, identified by its enlarged, slightly exaggerated version of Brooks Brothers' classic tag. Women's is on one side of the store, but Men's gets the emphasis with the fixtured wall  and the general old-boy atmosphere. While the merchandise looks like typical Brooks Brothers fare, the khakis are the narrowest cut, and most of the shirts are slim or extra slim cuts rather than the voluminous oxford button-downs that Brooks is famous for. Even a classic gray suit is a trim, Mad Men-esque version instead of the classic Brooks sack.

So it's preppy with a hipster silhouette at this new boutique-sized Brooks Brothers, so clearly meant to be seen as a college shop that it is even stocking sweaters and ties festooned with the NYU insignia in place of the brand's signature golden fleece. The bright-eyed, perfectly styled staff seems plucked form the freshman class as well, and what they may lack in seasoned experience they more than make up in eager loquaciousness. Eventually, they'll get the balance right. While it might look the store is aiming to compete with J. Crew and Banana Republic a block to the west, it seems to be more clearly taking a shot at Ralph Lauren's Rugby just on the other side of Union Square. After 44 years or so of Ralph Lauren borrowing liberally from Brooks Brothers, it's only fair that they take a little back for themselves... as long as they can just get rid of that damn scaffolding.

Brooks Brothers Flatiron Shop 901 Broadway at 20th Street, Flatiron District


Brooks Brothers Stocks The Shelves In Its Flatiron Shop

The wraps are off of Brooks Brothers' latest effort on Broadway at 20th Street, but someone forgot to close the curtains! The poor, headless mannequins in the windows are cruelly exposed without their clothes, but passersby can get a good look into the new BrooksBrosFlatiron-D Flatiron Shop the legendary retailer is about to open. The store is expected to showcase Brooks Brothers' younger, more collegiate lines, taking aim at nearby competitors like J.Crew and Ralph Lauren's Rugby. Taking over the space from Energie/Miss Sixty, the Brooks team has stripped the interior of its ersatz mid-century decor, and installed a design scheme that is better befits the heritage of a building that once housed Lord & Taylor. Peeking through the open door, The Shophound saw dark wood shelves and brass chandeliers giving the space an elegant library/lounge look. The loft at the back of the store remains, and it looks like the lower level will be utilized as selling space as well. Inside, workers clad in denim, oxford button downs and khakis scurried to prepare the interior, so we expect the public to get a full look inside any day now.

Site Specific: Brooks Brothers Headed To Flatiron District By Fall (4.20.2011)


It's A Flatiron Shop
For Brooks Brothers This Fall

Brooks Brothers has been casing out the city's various neighborhoods, and a few months ago we discovered that they had taken the retail space in the original Lord & Taylor building at Broadway and 20th Street near Union Square. Now there's advertising and signs in the window announcing a Fall opening for what will be called its "Flatiron Shop". The young, models casually posed in the pictures lining the windows confirm that the store will focusing on the sporty, collegiate side of Brooks Brothers, competing directly with Banana Republic and the newly expanded J.Crew a block over on Fifth Avenue.

Mighty J.Crew seems unstoppable these days, but Brooks Brothers has shown uncommon energy for such a venerable brand, and has shown an uncany sense for carefully merchandising its locations to fit its stores' locations from a Black Fleece boutique on trendy Bleecker Street to a children's focused store on the Upper East Side. We'll be looking forward to the Fall showdown.

Brooks Brothers Headed To Flatiron District By Fall (04.20.11)


Brooks Brothers Headed To
Flatiron District By Fall

Yet another former jeans boutique is being snapped up for a new purpose as Brooks Brothers is set to take over the former Miss Sixty/Energie space at Broadway and 20th Street. The location has sat empty since the trendy Italian brand abruptly shuttered its stores last year.

Brooks Brothers may be entering a site with even more heritage than its own. The five-story, landmarked building was the original home of Lord & Taylor, so its new tenant will bring it much closer to its carriage trade roots. In Brooks Brothers' continuing efforts to carefully calibrate its stores to their respective neighborhoods, the 7,100 square foot store which, if Miss Sixty's pattern is followed, should include selling space on two levels, will focus on the brand's younger more "collegiate" offerings, putting it in competition with neighborhood stalwarts like Banana Republic and the newly expanded, world's biggest J.Crew store. The new location is set to open in September, just in time to put away your madras shorts and pick up some bright new corduroy pants.

Reality Check (NYPost via Racked)


Brooks Brothers' Site-Specific Strategy

As we have mentioned in the past, The Shophound has been endlessly fascinated with Brooks Brothers' continuing evolution. The latest in a series of smaller neighborhood stores is one for the Upper East Side. After famously closing an expensive, ill-advised flagship on Fifth Avenue (Soon to become an imense Uniqlo) the company shifted directions with a sportswear-focused branch at Rockefeller Center perfectly merchandised for tourists, a home for Thom Browne's Black Fleece collection on trendy Bleecker Street, and a somewhat larger but well edited Upper West Side branch featuring its full Men's and Women's departments. Now at Madison Avenue and 86th Street, in the middle of a luxury children's wear district and just a stone's throw from J.Crew's Crewcuts store, the company's newest store showcases the brand's new Fleece label for boys and girls. It's not technically a children's store —there's a small selection for grown-up men and women— but the new updated kids' versions of Brooks Brothers' preppy classics sits in the center of the store's bright interior, takes up the majority of the floor space, and it should be an easy hit the mothers shopping in the area at Petit Bateau, Hippopotamus and Jacadi.

Brooks Brothers 1180 Madison Avenue at 86th Street, Upper East Side