Category Archives: Uncategorized

Menswear 101: Intro. to Pants

Last week I wrote about fashion categories for women, and how I like to avoid them for those who shop at Louis.

This week, I want to talk about fashion categories for men, and how they’re pretty much unavoidable.

If you are a man, or shop with a man, or shop for a man…or own a clothing store that has been selling the best in menswear for decades, you’re probably already familiar with the rules of men which are: 1.) They’re always hot, 2.) They don’t want to wear anything scratchy, and 3.) They’ll only buy what’s comfortable.

You’ll also be familiar with the fact that men have fairly standard choices when it comes to fashion, and those choices fall into categories. It’s because of this, and the nature of what I do, that I embrace the predictability of those categories and find the very best in them: the best tailoring, the best fabrics, the best in comfort, and always the best in style. Especially so when it comes to pants.

Besides a very avant-garde few, every man will wake up, get out of bed, and put on a pair of pants – every day – one leg at a time. Therefore, it makes me wonder why the majority of them are so willing to follow the path of least resistance (also known as khakis) and less willing to take the time to search high and low for the pair that will ultimately make them look and feel good at the same time.

When men come into Louis to shop for pants they politely explain that they want something in a soft “cotton” that won’t wrinkle or stain. Then I laugh and ask them if they understand that finding “cotton” that won’t wrinkle or stain is like finding a unicorn running down the Esplanade. It doesn’t exist. And then I ask, “Do you really want to walk around with the most precious parts of you all wrapped up in Teflon?”

As you can imagine, after the shock of my question wears off, the answer is pretty much always “no.”

I understand that you can walk into any store and get a “pair of pants” for $75-$200, but what you won’t get is what you’ll find at Louis … hand tailored pants crafted from incredible fabric with an incomparable fit. And unlike the aforementioned, these pants will be worth every penny you invest in them.

And when a man invests in his pants this way he’ll notice that they’ll have the most spectacular fit. They won’t sag in the ass or be cut too wide in the leg, but they will have enough of a cut to allow you to sit down, or drive a car, and be comfortable.

And when a man invests in his pants this way he’ll have a better understanding about innovations in fabrication including corduroy made from cotton and cashmere, brushed or twilled printed cotton, and lightweight flannel wool. And he’ll appreciate the fact that when he comes into a store like Louis he’ll have the opportunity to see it all and have it available – in his size.

Listen, I’ve been in the business of menswear for a very long time, and I know that if men want to expand their repertoire and be prepared for every occasion they can do so by having 4 different types of pants in their wardrobe: wool tailored, cotton tailored, cotton washed, and either a jean or track pant – or some other kind of casual pant. And they should all be equally comfortable across the board.

In our response to the rules of men, I can say with confidence that the collection of pants we have curated here will 1.) Not overheat you (nothing is heavier than 250 grams), 2.) Will never feel scratchy, and 3.) Will be tailored to perfection and always feel comfortable.

Guys…I beg you, please don’t let your jeans become your excuse. Jeans are not okay for every occasion. There truly are so many more interesting options, and I promise they will be just as, if not more, comfortable than denim – and they will definitely look and feel better.

Life presents more opportunities than ever before. Put your pants on one leg at a time and walk through them effortlessly.

But don’t wrap yourself up in Teflon.

Please.

PT101 Pant, Mastai Shirt, Robert Clergerie Shoes

PT101 Pant, Mastai Shirt, Robert Clergerie Shoes

 

Valentini pant, Mastai shirt

Valentini Pant, Mastai Shirt

Tim Coppens pant, Sartoria Partenopea jacket , Common Project sneakers, Malo sweater

Tim Coppens Pant, Sartoria Partenopea Jacket , Common Projects Sneakers, Malo Sweater

Sartoria Partenopia pant

Sartoria Partenopia Pant, Robert Clergerie Shoes

No Categories. No Repeats. No Hesitations.

I suppose it makes it easier for everyone when fashion and fabric are separated into categories. And it’s probably safe to assume that when the typical consumer walks into a department store, large or small, it’s easier to ask where the silk blouses are so both they, and the sales person, will know exactly what the shopper is referring to.

But to be honest with you I’m beginning to feel like the “category” has seen its day, and that day is passing – at Louis anyway.
Right now, when you walk into Louis, you’ll find carefully curated pieces that don’t fall absentmindedly into any particular category, and that’s just the way I wanted it. Designers including SUNO, GOAT and Proenza Schouler have all created spectacular garments in matching and/or coordinating fabric that ironically make them some of the most versatile pieces you’ll find for the Fall 2014 season. While pants are pants, and skirts are skirts, and dresses are dresses – what goes along with them are not tops, blouses, or jackets. Instead they are pieces that compel you to discover how you want to embrace and incorporate them into your life. Wear them together or wear them apart – they are stunning, and they are going to allow you to really own your individuality.

The other half of the affair I’m having with fashion this fall has arrived in the exploration of innovative fabrication. From GOAT’s denim wool crepe fabric, to Proenza’s viscose knits and razored leather and wool, to Otto’s ultrasuede, to Simone Rocha, Alice Roi, Jonathan Simkhai, and Jacquemus’ bold and beautiful use of neoprene, technology has gone further than it ever has and is ultimately answering the needs of a generation.

Neoprene? Yes. Neoprene. Invented by DuPont scientists in 1930, it thrills me to no end that designers have taken hold and are using it for something other than what it was originally made for – as they should! The fabric has incredible flexibility, provides stunning shape and volume, and keeps you warm without adding any additional weight.

Even after all this time that I’ve been in the business, I still find a fashion season like this to be incredible. Overflowing with innovation that gives us all an opportunity to honor those who refuse to fit into a category and purposefully create things that should be seen and touched and APPRECIATED.

For those who find satisfaction in discovery…I look forward to meeting the women who are bold enough to wear these looks this season.

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GOAT

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SUNO / Proenza Schouler Shoes

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Jacquesmus / Robert Clergerie Shoes

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Proenza Schouler / Paul Andrew Shoes

“Loose Luxury” – Fall 14 – @Louis_Boston

For the first time since I’ve been in this business, I find that the evolution of fashion has moved us into a moment of androgynous, and/or ambisexual dressing. I suppose you could say punk and deconstruction flirted with the notion, but today any distinctly feminine element you may have found there have all but been omitted.

It’s no secret that I’ve been attracted for some time now to the casual, luxury, athletic inspired designs that line the racks at Louis, and as we move into fall, that tone continues to evolve. A lot of the new pieces arriving here hold on to those sensibilities, but increasingly they are embracing androgynous qualities that effortlessly accompany them. And it’s been interesting to observe our customers as they approach the new season because I’m finding the pieces I have bought, whether cut for men or women, show very little difference in the nuance of the design, yet they are being very well received and appreciated by both sexes.

In particular, pieces from Baha East and Greg Lauren.

Baja East, the recently launched brainchild of Scott Studenberg and John Targon is a new line to Louis. Studenberg and Targon met while working on the wholesale side of the businesss for Lanvin, and Celine and Burberry respectively, and come to us in Boston with what is only their second collection.

Creating clothing that “everyone wants to wear all of the time,” the pair has coined their look “loose luxury” and produce pieces that are easy and casual, but finished in luxurious fabrics.

From their sleeveless hoodie made out of the softest glove leather you will ever lay your hands on, to another made from luxurious pony hair – I saw the collection in their showroom in New York, and I knew you had to have it.

Greg Lauren, Ralph’s nephew, has also created quite a buzz at Louis with his incredible distressed pieces. Since 2011 he has been finding vintage army duffle bags and tents at flea markets and vintage dealers, and manipulating them to create collections full of astonishing contradictions. The pieces for men and women differentiate a bit, but I didn’t buy that way for the season. Instead I bought similar pieces for everyone. His cashmere patchwork coats look and feel like nothing you’ve ever seen before and his exquisite, yet casual pants have sold out for women and soon will for men.

And while I would like to say the success of both lines at Louis should be attributed to my good taste, that’s honestly not the case. It’s truly just the confluences of things that are going on right now. With no other real way to describe it, pieces from both designers are just very “now,” and that kind of says it all.

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Make no mistake about it, the mainstream industry at large doesn’t quite know how to describe it either, but they are determined. True to form, the fashion rags (magazines and trade publications) want so badly to talk about this new incarnation of luxury, but they first need to categorize it and make it accessible to everyone by lining it up nicely along side of the “athletic” inspired brands of the moment (think LuLu). And while one could argue that there are shared components as things relate to comfort, the Common Project sneakers and the elements of Baja East and Greg Lauren are truly in a category unto themselves, yet there is nothing categorical about any of it.

Not to mention the fact that each and every garment produced is made purposefully, by hand, one at a time. And you won’t know what that means in terms of unique look and delicious feel if you are shopping from your computer. You simply have to try it on. The garments are made to drape differently on every body. You really have to throw out your ideas about traditional sizing because some prefer these pieces more fitted, and others with a little more room. Either way they look fabulous but they have to be tried on.

And this is what I’m referring to when I speak about the evolution and movement in fashion. Your jeans are an option, but now they are only that…an option. If you embrace new ideas and are open to evolving the way you think about clothing it’s inevitable that you’ll find pieces that may not replace your favorite jeans, but they will certainly make you think twice before automatically reaching for them. You have options now – Incredible, luxurious, forward thinking, innovative, versatile, striking options.

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Nothing thrills me more than when a customer comes to Louis, sees what we have to offer them, and understands the philosophy behind it. They get it.

Just last week a woman came in and grabbed a pair of Greg Lauren pants that were washed and dyed to give them a very unique look and texture. She put them on her body and her face lit up. Before we had a chance to explain anything to her she was explaining to us how she would wear them with heels or sneakers, and dress them up or down as the occasion dictated. When she said she thought they would look great if she wore them under a silk slip for an evening out I couldn’t hold back my smile. She had to have those pants. She got it.

These pieces that embrace “loose luxury” represent a new way of dressing and a new generation. The designers are really putting their stamp on things and owning something fresh that is also holding steadfastly on to luxury and elegance.

When you come to Louis I want you to discover incredible pieces and understand that you can use them in ways you never would have considered before.

I want you to invest in a wardrobe you actually want to wear…

And I promise you will.

 

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren shirt, Belvest jacket, Haider Ackermann pants

Greg Lauren shirt, Belvest jacket, Haider Ackermann pants

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Discover Kiton, Cashmere for Fall. Luxury Like No Other.

I would hope this goes without saying, but it’s important that you understand I’m not just out here preaching about EXPERIENCE and APPRECIATION. I live it.

I want you to know that I don’t buy for Louis, and ultimately for you, from my computer. Doing so would be insulting to all of us, including the artists/designers who work tirelessly to craft impeccable garments that must be seen and touched to be appreciated. In my every effort to keep Louis looking and feeling like Louis, and make sure it never morphs into a “trendy” department store, I step out from behind my own computer and travel the world so I can ensure that the pieces I intentionally bring back to Boston are like nothing you’ve seen or touched before.

With that said…

While we’ve all been enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of the summer we never thought would begin, I find myself looking forward to seeing the leaves change color and feeling the slight chill that Autumn brings to Boston every September. New items for the season have finally started to make their way to the store, and while I am excited by every piece that comes in, none excite me quite like the menswear that has arrived from Kiton – especially their cashmere.

If you live in Boston, you simply have to have a different kind of appreciation for cashmere. We all need outerwear that’s deliciously warm, and while a puffy down parka will suffice, albeit awkwardly over a suit, it will never look and feel as luxurious as cashmere. In menswear, most outerwear cloth is purposely created to be an in-between weight that translates just fine in other parts of the world, but it just doesn’t work here in New England. Do you remember last winter?

When you visit Louis you will see cashmere from Kiton you likely won’t see anywhere else. From luxurious overcoats crafted from 600 grahams of blanket soft and incredibly warm cashmere, to lightweight cashmere jackets that look wintery, but feel comfortably cool. Offered in rich palettes that include beautiful browns, bright blues, and interesting olives, it’s immediately apparent that the man who shops here simply isn’t interested in adding another navy blazer to his wardrobe. The man who shops here is looking for depth and dimension, and Kiton delivers.

Not only will you see things here that you likely won’t see elsewhere, the shopping experience at Louis is also quite different. While other stores only offer “try on” pieces in navy or gray, along with fabric swatches to confuse you and make you wonder what your garment will actually look like once your order comes in, we want to do better. And we do so by investing where others won’t.

The bottom line is, when I visit the Kiton showroom I like to take some risks. Risks that other stores won’t take because having pieces handmade in interesting (and expensive) fabrics to carry in inventory is just not within their comfort level. Perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in their buyers, or perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in you. So in the end, they put the risk on you – with a navy “try on” and a 6-inch swatch.

Me? I’m I more than willing to take that “risk” because I have confidence in Kiton, I have confidence in my experience as a buyer after all of these years, and I have confidence in you.

Kiton has a taste level that’s unparalleled in the industry. They are the best at what they do, and I have no problem investing in the best.

Once you come in to DISCOVER and APPRECIATE the Kiton tradition of luxury, you won’t be able to live without it either.

Trust me. Try it on.

 

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It’s All About Discovery (Not eCommerce).

I travel a lot. I meet interesting people, I taste incredible food, I see creativity manifested in many ways, and hear foreign languages and the hum of big cities nearly everywhere I go. My senses are pleasantly on overload much of the time, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To have the ability to experience all of that adds so many things to my life – things that I know most people are missing today. And what scares me is I’m not sure they know they’re missing it, because their eyes are always on their computers.

But I do think it’s why a lot of people can’t seem to stop asking me, or understand why I’ve decided not take Louis online. They want to know why I keep avoiding ecommerce and all that goes along with it, but I assure you I have some pretty good reasons – reasons that continue to surprise and delight every person who walks through the door at 60 Northern Avenue. I don’t sell my things online for them. I don’t sell the things you find at Louis online so they can walk into my store and keep their senses connected with the world around them and continue to appreciation all of the things they could never experience with the click of a mouse.

I think a lot about ecommerce, and I understand why some people think I should “change” the way I do things and move in that direction, but that doesn’t mean they understand the true ramifications of that word. From where I’m sitting, Louis is changing all the time – in a never ending movement of new colors and shapes and designers and fabrics – all of the things those people will never be able to experience and appreciate from looking at a computer screen.

It all comes down to this: I don’t sell Louis online and I don’t have an app because I want you to walk into my store and EXPERIENCE and APPRECIATE all that the eye can see and the hands and body can feel. I want to you smell wool and touch fabric and ask questions and discover new things. Life is about discovery, and you can’t do it when you’re sitting at a computer.

Besides how it effects you, not going digital also effects me, and my business. But the truth is, I’m not interested in sacrificing everything Louis is to make a fast dollar on the internet. I am however, interested in maintaining our integrity and sustaining our longevity, and holding fast to the long term effects of my actions.

I stay off of the internet because I am not interested in being a hot .com for a little while. I’m interested in keeping the leadership position that I’ve earned, that we all covet in this industry. Four generations have given the Louis experience to our customers – and people won’t know what that is if they can’t physically come here to experience everything we have to offer.

If I turned my attention to ecommerce, everything would change around here, and not for the better. I would no longer be able to offer one-of-a-kind pieces from exciting, young designers…and you would have to wait to hear about them from Vogue. I would have to start buying for a much bigger audience, and things that are produced en masse, can become rather boring and predictable. Don’t you agree? I don’t want to be strangled by the buying machine, and trust me, you don’t want me to be either.

I want you to try things on to find your proper size season to season, and see that you are NOT two dimensional like some designers who sell online would like for you to believe. You are in fact three-dimensional and what looks good on you just might not look good on the next person.

I want you to embrace your individuality, stop buying what the lastest “it” girl was wearing on E! last week, and begin to understand that by doing so you are letting the industry control who you are and influence what you like. The truth is (and the truth can hurt), what they’re wearing and what the stylists are pushing on their bodies has no relevance to you and your life.

I want you to evolve as a shopper by abandoning the sites you frequent and buying the same things in different colors, and get into a store where you can be introduced to new designers and styles and cuts of clothing you may not have noticed before. Expand your ideas of what looks good on you because in fashion, ignorance is NOT bliss.

I want you to understand that random online clicking will never help you build a wardrobe, it will only help you collect things – things that will go out of style well before they wear out from washing. How can you build the cohesive wardrobe you deserve if you aren’t able to buy pieces that work several ways together instead of alone, one at a time?

You may not realize it yet, although I think more and more people are catching on every day, that the internet is turning into the Sears Catalog that first appeared in 1888 and flourished in early 1900’s, and that while it’s moving us forward, it’s also bringing us way back in time. If you’re paying close attention, there are a lot of new stores like Louis popping up here and there, because the old way is now the new way to do good business.

Not sold? Do you still think shopping online is the way to go? If so, I challenge you – the next time you want to go shopping – to shut down your computer, leave your home, and make your way out into the world for a real “user experience”. Your senses are waiting.

You’ll thank me someday. You’ll see.

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Inspire. Appreciate. Evolve. On Cue @ The ICA

Last Tuesday I had the honor of being part of one of the most inspiring events of the year when Cue Ball managing partner Tony Tjan welcomed a few hundred brilliant people to the ICA to share and discover inspiration.

From Hugh Herr who helped Boston Marathon victim Adrianne Haslet-Davis dance again, to Steve Callahan who survived 76 days adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in a life raft and lived to tell us about it, to renowned attorney Ken Feinberg who has handled some of the highest profile cases in the country- the overarching themes were purpose and integrity, and how imperative it is that we continue to live by those principals and teach those virtues again and again…and again.

Another group of speakers included best-selling author and art historian Sarah Lewis, Artichoke Co-Founder and Director Helen Marriage, Chineasy Project Creator and Founder ShaoLan Hsueh, and accomplished architect, urban designer, educator and theorist Moshe Safdie. They all spoke passionately about the importance of creativity, authenticity, and the greater, overarching purpose of contributing to and appreciating a strong community.

When I wasn’t introducing brilliant mind after brilliant mind, or speaking to the audience myself, I sat rapt throughout the day as I listened to them talk about who they were, where they came from, and what they did – and how important it has been for each of them to maintain an elevated level of integrity, creativity, and authenticity while they doing it.

Toward the end of the evening as the event came to a close, it became obvious to me why all of the themes that were woven into the day continued to resonate with and inspire me…

It seems to me that purpose and integrity, creativity and authenticity, and a strong sense of community are really the soul of all of our collective existence and should be honored as such. However, being the proprietor of a clothing store that has been in the same family for generations, I have seen throughout the years how those principals have changed and how big business is essentially trying to push them off the track.

These days, people, places and companies like mine, who continue to operate with those principals, can find themselves overlooked, no matter what their contribution is to their community. Unfortunately, the attention often shifts to things that seem to be “bigger” and “better,” even if they’re not. And it’s important to recognize that one “big” thing is usually trying to put everyone else out of business and is slowly eroding the very fiber of our existence.

I understand as well as anyone that our society is geared toward speed and accessibility, but technological advances don’t necessarily move things forward or truly help us evolve. All good things don’t necessarily come easy – they take time, energy, commitment, purpose and appreciation.

All of this made me think of  Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, and his presentation at Cue last year where he shared his desire to make Las Vegas the most community-focused large city in the world. Staying aligned with his idea to make the original Zappos headquarters a place where local business could thrive and employees could stay connected, Tony created the “Downtown Project” which has allocated $350 million to aid in the revitalization of the Downtown Las Vegas. He is inspiring people to follow their passions and create a “vibrant, connected urban core.” Sure, he could just start businesses of his own, but of the $350 million allocated, $50 million is being used to invest in small businesses that he knows are the very things that keep a community alive. Ironically, it’s not the internet, and community is not clickable. As a matter of fact, if we’re not all careful, the internet is going to be the very thing that takes it all away.

Sadly, there will be a generation who won’t experience having their feet measured before buying new shoes, or the smell of fresh bread baking at the bakery, or the controlled chaos of the butcher shop with people standing in line clutching their numbers and waiting their turn in line. It’s these experiences that help people learn and grown and evolve, because you have to actually put forth effort, not just click a button, to get the things you desire. When you go online for everything you begin to lose your senses – you can’t see or touch or feel anymore. I’m fearful that the current and younger generations will never experience – they will only know how to consume.

But I found faith again last week while sitting among these like-minded people who were also thirsting to spend a day celebrating the principles that have laid the foundation of what we all do as individuals. We came to one place to celebrate our collective purpose so we can continue to contribute to the evolution of humanity.

Do me a favor – don’t consume something if you don’t appreciate it. Take the time to look at how things have evolved, and are evolving, and appreciate them.

It’s not the history or heritage of Louis that makes us who we are today, it’s our continuing evolution. If we don’t move forward, we’ll lose it. And losing it is not an option.

 

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FDLouis13

Father’s Day Comes Once a Year. Don’t Blow It.

It’s no secret that we all love our fathers, but to be quite honest with you, Father’s Day has gotten downright predictable and boring…and for a guy who is so great, don’t you think he deserves something a little more exciting than a tie?

You only need a minute to browse the Hallmark isle to realize that unless your father is golf-playing or lawn-mowing, you’re out of luck in the card department, and if you default to buying him a department store discounted tie, he’s the one who’s going to be out of luck.
So this Sunday, for Father’s Day, why not do him a significant favor, and instead of telling him you love him with a predictably boring Father’s Day gift, show him you love him by updating his look.

Isn’t it time?

Young or old, your dad deserves to have a sense of pride in how he dresses, and if you have to show him what style is these days, there’s really no better time then on Father’s Day, when you hopefully have his somewhat, undivided attention.

We also understand that breaking tradition might lead to a look of confusion on your father’s face as he wonders, “Where the hell is my tie?” but when he sees what’s in the box, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll instantly become his favorite child.

We just know.

Can you picture him now…in a pair of slim fitted PT01 (Pantaloni Torino) pants, with a perfectly tailored Kiton shirt and a pair of Common Projects sneakers? We can.

And if you must get a tie, please, pick out something with some color. Pick out something he would never pick out for himself, and let him know that as far as father’s go, he should stand out in the crowd, as he’s always done in your eyes.

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Father’s Day Comes Once a Year. Don’t Blow It!

It’s no secret that we all love our fathers, but to be quite honest with you, Father’s Day has gotten downright predictable and boring…and for a guy who is so great, don’t you think he deserves something a little more exciting than a tie?

You only need a minute to browse the Hallmark isle to realize that unless your father is golf-playing or lawn-mowing, you’re out of luck in the card department, and if you default to buying him a department store discounted tie, he’s the one who’s going to be out of luck.
So this Sunday, for Father’s Day, why not do him a significant favor, and instead of telling him you love him with a predictably boring Father’s Day gift, show him you love him by updating his look.

Isn’t it time?

Young or old, your dad deserves to have a sense of pride in how he dresses, and if you have to show him what style is these days, there’s really no better time then on Father’s Day, when you hopefully have his somewhat, undivided attention.

We also understand that breaking tradition might lead to a look of confusion on your father’s face as he wonders, “Where the hell is my tie?” but when he sees what’s in the box, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll instantly become his favorite child.

We just know.

Can you picture him now…in a pair of slim fitted PT01 (Pantaloni Torino) pants, with a perfectly tailored Kiton shirt and a pair of Common Projects sneakers? We can.

And if you must get a tie, please, pick out something with some color. Pick out something he would never pick out for himself, and let him know that as far as father’s go, he should stand out in the crowd, as he’s always done in your eyes.

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PT01

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Is That The Groom? (It’s Wedding Season)

It’s wedding season.

You know how I know? Gorgeous young brides-to-be are walking though the doors of Louis Boston with desperation in their eyes, and bewildered fiancés following closely behind them.

Several weeks ago, one such bride-to-be entered the store, with her bewildered fiancé not very far behind her. She had actually been in two month earlier when she purchased a brilliant Jason Wu gown for her wedding. Designed in ice colored satin and silk, it was sleeveless with an intricate high collar. But the element of design that we knew would take their collective breath away during the ceremony was the dramatic open back – with just a delicate chain that draped flawlessly across in just the right place. It was all at once, soft, sophisticated, sexy and kick ass!

There I was, recalling every detail of the dress, and at the same time my mind was working its way through our inventory so I could pull some things for him that would compliment her perfectly, and he said…

“I don’t want to wear a suit.”

“Excuse me?” I said. Not really believing what I was hearing. I took him gently by the hand and said “I understand, you’re getting married in July, by the water, and you don’t want to wear a heavy suit…” and he interrupted me to say, “If I have to I’ll just wear navy.”

Huh?

And this is the part where I got to do what I truly love to do: style someone who doesn’t understand his own potential. I pulled a featherweight cotton suit with 1% cashmere (to hold it all together), a blueberry and white checked linen shirt, and a pair of kick ass Common Project sneakers, before I nudged him toward the dressing room.

Thinking about her dress again, I knew this look was going to compliment her well. I knew that when she saw him she would feel proud to approach him as she was walking down the isle. And as I was thinking that, to my amazement, he was turning around, looking at himself in the mirror not believing what he was seeing. He looked great and now he knew it.

He looked at me and said he couldn’t believe how comfortable the pieces were and how well everything fit him. I explained again the difference beautifully tailored pieces could make.

He grinned. He nodded. He looked at himself again in the mirror. I really thought he was there.

Then he turned to me and said, “What if I don’t wear the jacket…just the shirt and the pants?” Besides the fact that he looked incredible from head to toe, and that should be reason enough, I explained that the pants were part of the suit and were not sold separately.

He shrugged and said, “I don’t want to buy the suit. I never wear a suit.” Then he turned and walked back into the dressing room.

I took one look at his bride-to-be and saw her face drop. She quietly said, “If he doesn’t wear a jacket, won’t I look nicer than him? Won’t I look too dressed up?”

So I excused myself, pulled him aside and whispered to him, “I know you don’t know what she’s wearing, because it’s a secret, but your fiancé has gone to a lot of trouble to make sure she looks super sexy, and sophisticated for you – because she wants to. Don’t you want to do the same for her? She loves you in this suit…”

Don’t get your hopes up. He walked back into the dressing room, pulled on his old jeans and t-shirt, and they started to leave. She looked back at me with a defeated look on her face before she shrugged, as if to say, “what can I do?”

I wondered what he was going to do, and I prayed, for her sake, that he wouldn’t be renting a tux.

I wondered why he wasn’t willing to take more pride in himself and his appearance on his wedding day. Even if he did only wear the suit once, wouldn’t it be worth it to look back in later years and feel proud of who he was, and how he looked for the occasion? A wedding is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities where a man should move outside of his comfort zone and raise his own bar – just a little bit, or even a lot.

Having been in this business for a very long time, I know that men used to really care about how they looked. Unfortunately we now live in the age of “Casual Friday Everyday,” and a lot of men just don’t really care at all. The times may have changed, but one thing should remain the same, and that is an understanding that there is a certain decorum that we should all adhere to when it comes to how we present ourselves for certain, if not most, occasions. Don’t you agree?

In other words, why do you want to look like everyone else on your wedding day?

In the end I’ll probably never know how he shows up to the wedding, but I will know that his bride looks stunning.

Guys, you don’t have to do anything, but don’t you want to?

 

Bowie? Say it isn’t so…

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Where Have All The Icons Gone? Menswear: A History

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that my affinity for clothing, especially men’s clothing, began long ago.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact I’m the fourth generation of my family to own and operate Louis, and all that goes along with that is now in my blood. Contrary to what people may believe, Louis wasn’t founded to sell women’s clothing. As a matter of fact, the history of Louis was built around the best menswear money could buy, and both my grandfather and father were pioneers in the industry.

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

From L to R: Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle), Saul Pearlstein (my grandfather), and a few of their dapper friends.

From L to R: Louis Boston owners Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle, Louis and Jerome’s father), and Saul Pearlstein (Nathan’s brother, my grandfather)…and a few of their dapper friends.

In the 1930’s and early 40’s, when the silent film era began to decline and “talkies” took over, the movie studios understood the value in their investments, and had beautiful clothes custom made for the actors in their films. They brought in the best tailors from Italy; to dress them, and give them what would soon become “signature styles.”

A craft that had been taught and passed down from generation to generation, the Italian tailors took the business of fabric, tailoring, and fashion very seriously. The garments were handmade, and depending on the region of origin, were distinctly different from one another. Hollywood brought them over to help their stars develop distinct differences as well, and they did.

You only have to take one look at the suits Cary Grant wore, with defined shoulders, lapels, and patch pockets…or the fitted garments Gregory Peck wore, with much stronger shoulders and very baggy pants, to see the incredible custom work that was being done and the impact these “style icons” were beginning to have on fashion. As Grant’s co-star, Eva Marie Saint remarked about the actor: ”Other men wear suits. But with other men, there’s the man and then the suit that’s on him. That didn’t happen to Cary Grant. Style was like (his) skin.”

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

When the war was over at the end of the 40’s the Italian tailors returned to Italy, but they took something from the United States with them. It was here that they first became privy to the concept of “off the rack;” and the understanding that suits did not have to be made entirely by hand to be special. For the first time they began to alter their designs for a much broader audience, and my father was among the first to buy them and bring them back to Boston. Even though the garments were now part of a larger production process they still had the quality only the Italian tailors could impart to them. They were still something special. Word spread, and toward the end of the 50’s and more so throughout the 60’s and 70’s, when the Baby Boomers were starting to take their fashion more seriously, Louis saw a substantial amount of growth. It was around this time, when I was a young woman, that I took a real interest in Louis and our family business.

My father developed a shop within our shop called “Down with Louis,” which was created for consumers in my generation. He was importing 3 piece suits from Italy, crafted in gorgeous gabardine fabrics, and sold them for $125 each. With a sales team made up of only women (including me!), our male clients couldn’t get enough and began to buy 6 or 7 suits at a time, in every color they could get their hands on.

As the 70’s wore on and designers continued to develop their lines based on the signs of the times, men’s fashion took a turn…for the worse. Men were being presented with Rayon suits and chunky, high heels shoes, and after a brief fascination with the trends, they started to turn in another direction. They abandoned these clown suits (sorry!) and sprinted back toward conservative and emerging designers like Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren who knew exactly how to “save” them. Throughout the 80’s they did just that by creating comfortable “uniforms” so men didn’t have to think or be different. They were simply, and gladly, fitting themselves in to the images the designers created. The “Armani suit” infiltrated the professional set, and from preppy, to safari, to dude ranch, to Wall Street – Ralph Lauren mastered the presentation. Men who weren’t sure anymore about how to dress themselves felt a wave of relief. It was all there for them. It was painless, mindless, and safe.

They ran from this:

1978 Men's Fashion Advertisement Vintage 1970s Menswear 5-1

To this:

Armani

Armani

and this…

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Similar to the history in women’s fashion, the 90’s brought all things to a screeching halt because Generation X wanted nothing to do with nostalgia or achieving a particular “look.” The truth was everything to the contrary. The demise began with the notion of “Dress Down Friday” which turned into, “Fu*k it…let’s dress down every day.” “Deconstruction” and “Grunge” made men deconstruct wearing a suit to wearing, well, anything…and besides bankers and attorneys, you would see everything from ripped t-shirts, old jeans, sneakers, and even pajamas on the street. This was fashion?

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Later in the decade the tech bubble burst which required GenX to find “real” jobs and present a bit more professional. Suits were still out of the question, and when the next century began a new uniform emerged in the form of no crease, no stain, fabrics made from Petroleum and Teflon. White t-shirt + blue button down shirt + gray suit =  fashion? I know you remember it well. photo

Soon thereafter, with a downturn in the economy, men’s fashion began to genuinely lose its footing and once again men became unsure of where to turn…to find another uniform. Because of the spread between generations, and due to the fact that is no longer a “one suit fits all” landscape, it seems that luxury department stores have had to divide the shopping experience for men into “tailored” or “designerwear.” In my opinion, they’re getting extremely lost on the path between two places, and I think their customer is getting lost right along with them. Tailored clothing are no longer one style fits all, and designerwear has developed into extremes that are unequivocally not for everyone. barneyspicstitch

To be honest, if they don’t find what they’re looking for soon I’m afraid men are going to rebel like they did in the 70’s and we’re all going to find ourselves staring out into a sea of mediocrity once again.

So where do men turn for their inspiration today?

Long gone are the days of Marcello Mastroianni, who ordered custom suits from his Roman tailor….and the rugged dressed-down style of Steve McQueen…and the New York City grit of Al Pacino. From the casual cool of Marlon Brando and James Dean, to the sex appeal of Richard Gere in American Gigolo and the power of Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” who are men looking to for inspiration today?

Are there any icons out there?

If you find them, will you let me know?

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

This brings me full circle to my affinity for menswear, and fuels my purpose to bring inspiring pieces to Louis today. I travel the world with what I just shared with you in mind, and remain determined to help men find a way to pack their jeans away. It just has to happen! I make it my mission to help men who shop here find their own contemporary, relevant sense of style – where clothes are tailored correctly to fit closer to the body without looking awkward, and where urban and athletic style come together with PANTS, refined hoodies, gorgeous fabric, gorgeous blazers and sophisticated sneakers that will blow them all away…

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

I’ll leave you with this…

I remember once, when I was young and single (oh yes I was!) and living in a Townhouse outside of Boston, an acquaintance asked if they could set me up on a “blind date.” Never one to turn away from trying something new, I agreed and waited, and wondered who would arrive at my door.

After several days of anticipation, the date was upon me. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and walking to the door with the anxious/excited feeling one (hopefully) gets just before a blind date and swung open the door.

To my excitement, the man who stood before me surprisingly very handsome, and I felt a wave of relief take over…until my eyes left his face and found their way to what he was wearing, and before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I said, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong address…I’m waiting for my blind date!”

He didn’t get it. Do you?