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Does Brooks Brothers really need to be reinvented?

With new owners Authentic Brands Group Pulling Brooks Brothers out of bankruptcy in August 2020 and naming Michael Bastian as the brand’s new creative director a few months later, it seemed like a nostalgic or maybe even conservative move. Bastian built his hugely successful eponymous brand during the heyday of #menswear, beefing up menswear codes alongside bold prepsters like Gant, Mark McNairy and Thom Browne – but Gant and McNairy are no longer producing regular collections, while Browne has become a standout name has become in the sexual fluid association. And while Bastian’s clothing was once popular with basketball players, the pregame tunnel is now dominated by luxe streetwear from brands like Kapital, Balenciaga and Fear of God. (Funnily enough, Jerry Lorenzo’s line, which mixes luxe tailoring with sportswear, might be Bastian’s true heir.) Preppiness in general has taken an unconventional turn as modern-day practitioners attempt to reconcile their troubling past with our more politically conscious present.

Amidst all these changes, Bastian was in the driver’s seat at Brooks Brothers, firing constantly. He has designed five collections so far, although due to turnaround times and supply chain issues, only his first, Fall 2021, has arrived in stores; Spring 2022 began landing last week. All were appropriate, even super dapper. Inspired by two clichés of Wasp vacation life, Palm Beach and Nantucket, the entire Spring 2022 offering includes double-breasted jackets, checked blazers with bows, oxford cloth shirts, fun shirts and a madras anorak with seersucker cuffs. There are quirky go-to-hell prints and seersuckers galore. In other words, the age-old Brooks Brothers Prep You, Your Father, and His Father All Remember, presented (largely) ironically.

That’s the point, Bastian said in a video call late last year. As he began discussions with the Brooks team, he recalled starting his eponymous line “to do the things I missed doing at Brooks Brothers that they didn’t do anymore,” which included striped Bengali shirts, tennis sweaters, Oxford Fabric meant shirts, wide chinos. In other words: “Very simple, basic things. Maybe they’re not the hottest thing right now, but they always have to be there. That kind of reliability is really important for a brand like Brooks Brothers.” So Levi’s always has 501s or five-pocket cords. Or an antidote to the creator of your favorite t-shirt not have these things suddenly, for whatever reason. He wanted to build his Brooks around the things that, should a brand stop making them, “feel like a betrayal.”

Extra neat looks from the Brooks spring collection.

Courtesy of Brooks Brothers.

Courtesy of Brooks Brothers.

All of that sounds great. But living in a world where brands like Aimé Leon Dore and Noah have reinvented prep and sportswear for the modern young man, it would be fair to ask if Bastian is reinventing things enough.

But Bastian doesn’t see himself as a creative dynamo imported to take his high-fashion bonafides to a battered brand. Instead, he sees his role as something entirely different, devoid of ego and more product-centric. He thinks obsessively about the customer, following their comments on Instagram and their habits on the Brooks Brothers webshop. “I’m just thinking – and maybe that’s because I’m at this stage in my life and career -[that] I don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” he said in a video call last month. “For example, this oxford cloth shirt is perfect. All I have to do is protect it and make sure it’s there in its highest form.” The same goes for stylistic anachronisms like garters and button-fastening boxers. He knows that Brooks Brothers is home to “all of those crazy little man things that a lot of guys out there love. And we are the last place to do that.”

“As a designer, you have to get into the mindset that the brand is bigger than you,” he continued. “I feel very comfortable with that. The brand is over 200 years old. It will be long after me, all of us. Best thing I can do is: keep it relevant, keep it on track, polish up the symbols, make it more Brooks Brothers.”

Does Brooks Brothers really need to be reinvented?

Source link Does Brooks Brothers really need to be reinvented?

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