Despite the shameful mall brand that it has morphed into over the past couple decades, there was a time when Abercrombie & Fitch was great. More than great even, Abercrombie & Fitch was important, a brand that was as integral to our country’s culture of clothing as it was to our culture as a whole. This was a company that outfitted presidents and pioneers, authors and actors, explorers and icons. Today, the Abercrombie & Fitch clientele is decidedly less illustrious, and their products are about as American as a three Yuan bill. I oft wonder how many shoppers even realize that Abercrombie & Fitch were real people to begin with? Then again, it would be wrong to fault anyone for overlooking the real Abercrombie & Fitch. After all the philosophy upon which these two gentleman built their brand is wholly absent from the stores that bear their names today.
The City of Westminster is considering renaming Chiltern Street to Monocle Row. The magazine’s spin offs occupy several storefronts on this quaint corner of Marylebone with a Monocle café and the Trunk marque, which now includes both a men’s clothing store and a (fairly) recently opened accessories store called Trunk Labs.
The shop has thoughtful selection from brands like Alden, Rimowa luggage, Sanders & Sanders, London Undercover, Aspesi and many more. It feels English, European and Japanese all at the same time. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to buy a ceramic dish, a pen from Japan and a cashmere throw. It’s a store for discovering something new and for buying gifts for yourself.
Harry’s, the internet-spawned close-shave-loving German-made razor-blade-kingpins have gotten into the barber shop game with its awesome new outpost on MacDougal Street in SoHo. The question is: does New York need another barber shop? And actually, the answer is: yes, yes it does. While barber shops seem to be appearing on the daily in New York these days (Fellow Barber, the Barbershop on Rivington Street), judging from the massive lines at all of these shops it looks like there is no shortage of customers either. And thankfully, Harry’s has a plan for that too. Word is that this new shop hopes to thwart all that line standing with an online appointment system, something the competition can’t yet offer.
Not content with just making great razors (and other nice shaving gear) and having a great editorial vehicle with the Hotchkiss-helmed Five O’Clock, Harry’s appears to have opened the best merchandised barber in New York and potentially on the planet. In addition to all of the great grooming product from guys like Imperial, Baxter of California and Proraso, there’s also a tightly edited collection of small items like notebooks from Public Supply, footballs from Leatherhead, vintage knives and all stripe of other manly trinket worth owning. There’s even boxers on offer from Sleepy Jones should you (oddly) need to resupply while you get your haircut. It’s a well done affair over there at Harry’s. Not that we were expecting anything less from good guys like them.
What began at J.Crew’s first men’s only shop in TriBeCa takes a new shape this fall with the launch of the label’s new Discovered online shop. “Discovered” is a tightly knit selection of interesting goods from both the J.Crew collection which also includes special product collaborations from outside brands like New Balance, Nanamica and other covet-able clothing of all stripes. Before we get talk more about that, let’s go back to the origins of the J.Crew brand collaborations: Mickey Drexler and The Liquor Store.
Watching all of this develop over the past several years, it’s smart the way J.Crew brings in product from outside brands to mix with all of the apparel that it designs, manufactures and sells under its own label. It’s a realistic approach to how guys dress. Alden, New Balance and Red Wing are the natural footwear compliments to a pair of J.Crew’s khakis, wovens and other clothing categories. So why not leverage the company’s brand to get all of these other interesting labels to make compelling product exclusively for J.Crew. Ships, Beams and United Arrows have mastered this as an art form long ago. So have a bunch of directional specialty stores.
The model is the same: use the cool factor of the brand/store to get cool exclusives to further build on the brand/store’s cool factor. In terms of vertical American retailers, no one does the third-party product assortment better than J.Crew. It’s the culmination of good leadership, effective merchandising, smart retail execution and sharp marketing all-together in one place. Throw in the catalog (which they now call the “Style Guide”) and collaborating with J.Crew is a no-brainer for both small and large brands alike.
We stopped by the recently opened Gant Rugger shop on Prince Street in Manhattan to check out the new Gant Rugger SS12 collection and were pleasantly surprised by the presence of one of our favorite designers — Mr. Christopher Bastin. We had no idea Gant’s original Bastian was going to be walking us through the new clothes, but were happy to get an expert tour. The new Rugger collection looks solid per usual; the clothes are very collegiate and also very wearable. It is important to also note the colors are all spot-on (often with preppy, the colors are all wrong) and the fabric selection was very well done — all directly attributable to our pal Christopher Bastin.
Since we had him hostage we coerced Christopher into helping us show off some of our favorites pieces from the upcoming SS12 collection. Check it out after the jump.
The folks at Ralph Lauren invited me up to their newly redone Rhinelander Mansion at 72nd Street & Madison for a preview of the new shop. Obviously my favorite part of the store is the RRL shop on the third floor. Stepping into The Mansion is an instant reminder of RL’s unmatched ability to create the finest retail experience on the earth. After this morning I feel comfortable in saying that no one does it better. Mind blowing would be an apt description.
The RRL shop has a few different exclusive items that you won’t find at any of the other stores — from deadstock duck camo ties to a tasty oil cloth trench coat — there are also a few different new made in the USA boots (like the Bowery Boot that was featured on ACL a while back) including a shell cordovan option. One other new addition on offer at the Mansion RRL shop is a selection of tailored sport coats and vests made from various tweeds, including a good selection of Harris Tweed clothing and accessories.
While the Melrose RRL store is still my favorite, this new uptown RRL is a worthy destination. More coverage of The Mansion’s update coming soon.
The J.Crew men’s shops are best experienced in person, but I thought that instead of documenting the new store on Madison Avenue (at 79th Street) in the usual manner, it would be cool to team up with Mr. Sean Sullivan to put a little video tour together. If you don’t live in New York and were curious what this whole J.Crew men’s thing was all about, I think this gives you a good impression of what the company is doing. If you do live in New York and are too lazy to go that far uptown, this will save you $2.25 in train fare. I’m impressed with what J.Crew is doing and like it or not, you have to salute a company that is giving guys their own shopping experience, separate from the ladies.