Tag Archives: Armani

The LOUiS Experience (A Customer’s Perspective)

I have a confession to make.

I’ve always loved buying men’s clothing more than I loved buying women’s.

Of course buying for women was exciting, because I was buying things I would like to wear too. But buying for men was just an entirely different experience. Perhaps that was because I wanted to give men the options they need to dress in the way I knew women wanted them to.

In order to do that, you need to have willing participants. In my case, I needed to have a customer who understood, had confidence, and felt it was important to present himself in that way that would reflect who he was, or at least who he knew he wanted to be. It’s a man who understands that when you’re well dressed you command, and will get, attention and respect.

While I have been buying men’s clothing for over 25 years, I almost always leave the selling of them to my accomplished sales consultants. I never found it easy to walk up to a man during a sales presentation and insert myself into the process. In a way I felt like I was intruding on a private moment – not to mention the fact that I felt like I could be perceived as just another woman walking into his life, telling him what to wear.

Instead I found my way to a comfortable, anonymous place where I bought, and they sold. But I always bought the best, and the reward was seeing what our customers would buy.

Then one day – after having a particularly bad day – I walked into my office and found a letter waiting for me from a customer who had taken the time to very kindly thank me for his clothes. He told me that he loved the opportunities Louis gave him to find clothes of substantial quality that fit him beautifully, and went on to describe how much he enjoyed the process of shopping at Louis because it helped him know he was well dressed – and he wanted to thank me for that.

And it meant more to me than anyone will ever know that he took the time to go out of his way to thank me. I’ll never forget it.

And to this day, more than 20 years later, he continues to come to Louis, every season, to shop the collections.

It’s no secret that I have an affinity for appreciation, and it’s important to understand that appreciation is my motivator. It’s not about the money, it’s about the appreciation and the product, and how great it’s always been at Louis. So today I want to thank him, and all that are like him. I thank them every day for allowing me to do what I loved to do.

I thought it would be enlightening to hear from this particular customer about his experience at Louis. He and my other customers are painfully aware of the fact that when Louis closes the experience will be gone. Here’s a nod to the legacy of Louis as told to my friend and writer, Jamie Kohn.

**

Jamie:

Can you share your earliest experiences with Louis?

Jim:

My love affair with Louis began in the mid-to-late 50’s when my grandmother shopped there for my grandfather and uncles. In the early 80’s when I attended Boston College I would sneak into the Back Bay and Chestnut Hill mall locations and shop for myself on dad’s credit card. It was never very well received, because he didn’t know it was happening until he got the statement from the credit card company.

I grew up with an appreciation for the quality of the merchandise and the staff at Louis. They are very customer oriented and part of the reason I have returned to Louis for the last 20 years to shop the spring and fall collections that come to Boston.

Twice a year I spend several hours with Arthur Jordan who along with his assistant, will reserve a section of the store for me and carefully lay out the best of the best of each season. The first hour is spent trying things on and making decisions, the second is spent with their incredibly talented tailor.

I will say that no matter where I go – whether it’s Italy, Paris, LA, and even Manhattan – someone stops me to ask where I got my clothes. You would think that the clothing opportunities at Louis may be available in those cities, but they aren’t. They don’t have Debi, and she has the extraordinary gift. The men’s collections at Louis are, hands down, the finest of any store I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to many. Some people might say it’s an extravagance, but I think it’s a necessity – to look good and know that what you purchase isn’t just a “trend,” but rather classically tailored clothes cut from beautiful fabrics. The workmanship is simply outstanding.

JK:

Who have been your favorite designers throughout the year?

Jim:

Some of my first pieces were Perry Ellis and early Armani. Then Debi started buying Dries Van Noten, Belvest, Kiton, Melinda gloss, Marni, and of course, Massimo shirts! You just can’t find anything made like a Massimo shirt!

Both Arthur Jordan, and Bob Daly before that, helped me navigate the new designers and merchandise, and feel comfortable taking some risks. I didn’t want to be the first guy in the boardroom with a look no one was wearing yet, but with a little justification from the experts at Louis, I knew that everything would be okay. And it was.

I didn’t want to be a trendsetter, but I did want to have classic clothes that looked incredible. And that is Arthur Jordan’s gift, he takes you by the hand and gently walks you through it.

JK:

What is the shopping experience like at Louis? What happens when you make an appointment with Arthur?

Jim:

Shopping at Louis is a blessing, and not an inexpensive exercise, but it means walking into the store and being treated in a 5-star manner. The staff is gracious and hospitable, and they make sure you have what you need. Arthur has a wonderful assistant so he’s always with you throughout the experience. When I arrive they have already laid out pants, dress shirts, ties, and any other more casual pieces for the season such as shorts or jackets. They let you take your time to take it all in and see what speaks to you. I begin my own selection process with the things I love and want to try on, and then Arthur will bring other things in to the mix for me to consider. And this is what makes him worth his weight in gold. He and his team continuously hand me items one at a time. It’s nothing like the locked box dressing rooms you find at department stores. At Louis it’s all about the service.

JK:

Where will you go next?

Jim:

I honestly do not know.

When Debi first told me she was closing I asked her why she wouldn’t just sell her store to someone else, or one of the talented members of her sales staff. But I only had to think about it for a minute before I realized it was a bad idea, because nobody else has an incredible eye like Debi. She has a vision and I thank her for it every chance I get.

There are other stores like Bergdorf’s in New York City, and Fred Segal in Los Angeles, but there is really nothing like Louis. When you walk into the Bristol Hotel in Paris and the impeccable Parisian dressed hotel manager greets you by saying, “I love your suit where did you get that,” and you say “A store in Boston called Louis,” you know you’ve found the best.

Nobody does what Debi can do. It has to end with her.

JimShea_5

JimShea_6

Welcome to the Evolution

It was brought to my attention lately that my blog “What Is…” was not.  And for a woman who has spent many years curating stories that come alive within the walls of Louis, I stopped telling them to you long ago.

I blog because I always have something to say, but I stopped because I kept getting the uneasy feeling that my words were falling on deaf ears…in what can be a very ignorant industry anyway. My tone was becoming angry, I know I sounded whiny, and it was time to stop tapping the keyboard and start tapping into evolution.

It was no longer interesting to me, and surely not to you, to continue to regurgitate the mantras I so loathed of markdowns and selling out. Everything felt like it was standing still.

Fashion has been, and always will be, a socioeconomic illustration of society. And as such should always be evolving. And that’s where the industry is fumbling. Stories have become about conforming when they should really be about evolving.

And all roads lead me here.

Is fashion evolving, and more importantly, are we evolving with it?

Let’s just say I’m hopeful.

With the advancement of smartphones and the alarming rate of digital creation and consumption, things have been moving at warped speed…except when it comes to fashion. I get that this digital movement is highly instrumental in “sharing” fashion, but what’s being shared has been stalling out.

I can’t understand why, when for the duration of my lifetime anyway, I have found the history of fashion to be somewhat fascinating.

Bare with me…

The 1950’s were, unquestionably, the decade of the dress. The silhouette was often the same, but fabrics and patterns would change so there could be a dress for every occasion a girl could dream of. And in the 50’s they were all dreamers, weren’t they?

1950's Fashion

In the 1960’s fashion started to see some much desired change. Women were finally ready to wake up. They were ready to break out of their Jello molds, and their attitudes began to instead mirror the social movements of the time. Highlights (and there were many) included Mary Quant inventing the mini-skirt and Jackie O introducing the world to the Pillbox hat. Dresses were still in fashion, but the silhouettes were changing. Women were turning away from the conventional and toward a sense of timeless freedom. Shift dresses, pants and skirt suits made their way to the mainstream, but all were still high on “matching” and low on adventure.

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Dior

Dior

Fortunately, fashion underwent a full-blown change from uniformity to individuality in the 1970’s. “Separates” made their way into the department stores and women breathed a collective sigh of relief, as they were now able to connect with who they were…or who they thought they were…or more likely, who they wanted to be. Women’s Liberation helped them wake up to the notion of expressing themselves, and fashion was beginning to let them. Platform shoes, Mini and Maxi dresses, hot pants, tube tops, fitted blazers, the ubiquitous DVF Wrap Dress, and last, but certainly not least, the leotard. From dance class to the dance floor with a trip to the supermarket in between, the leotard crossed over to streetwear and had an impact on the world that I still can’t believe!

70s-fashion-bell-bottoms

By the 1980’s things began to really shift from the home to the office, and women were now the standard in the boardroom. They weren’t working because they had to, they were working because they wanted to, and they needed to create an identity that spoke to who they were, and they needed to own it. Shoulder-padded blazers lined the racks to help women display how fierce they were, and short, fitted skirts made sure they weren’t forced to abandon their sexuality. Now they had an identity, but individual personalities got lost in the commute.

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1980

As things shifted from the 80’s to the 90’s women did begin to take ownership of who they were. The non-descript stood up and said, “No, I’m not (non-descript)” and they began to demand more than suits and separates. They didn’t want to have to worry about fitting in anymore. To the contrary, they were finally ready to stand out.

A reflection of the times, the Armani power suit dominated for those who were “getting ahead,” while deconstruction began to condemn the glitz and glamour of the 80’s. When the recession engulfed the economy in 1991 designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, and the “Antwerp 6” already had a strong hold on Europe and “Grunge” had infiltrated the United States.

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The "Antwerp 6"

The “Antwerp 6”

"Grunge" by Steven Meisel for Vogue

“Grunge” by Steven Meisel for Vogue

But then, somewhere in the middle of the 2000’s, things hit a wall. Hard. The items that men and women wanted to make themselves standout suddenly became “trends,” and the “top 5” were born. Websites and fashion blogs began to overflow with information (content) and the pages of glossy fashion magazines began to tell people what they had to wear to really show their individuality. However, unbeknownst to them, women really found themselves negotiating their individuality, and then individuality became the trend.

It kept getting worse from there.

Two words: Colored Denim

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If you’ve been following along, all of this begs the question, how can we evolve and stay innovative if we’re simply going to follow the trend? Who are you if you dress exactly like Kim Kardashian?

That’s not a trick question.

The answer is you…only now, you’re dressed like Kim Kardashian.

It’s time to dress like you.

We made it through dresses and separates, pants suits and shoulder pads, bell-bottoms and tie-dye,  geometric prints and all things Mod. Why stop now?

It’s 2014 and if you’re paying close attention you know that fashion is absolutely evolving again. If you’re not, you should know that your options are abundant…but you have to stop looking to the current “It” girl, or in the pages of glossy “fashion” magazines. Trust yourself, find your passion, and make your mark.

What does evolution look like?

Get ready, because here it comes…

 

Thomas Tait

Thomas Tait

Thomas Tait

Thomas Tait