Tag Archives: Belvest

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

The Perfect Fit (It’s Not Over Until It’s over)

Well, 2015 is certainly off to an exciting start, isn’t it? By now I hope that most of you have read the blog I wrote to address the incredible responses we had to the announcement that Louis would close in July. If you haven’t, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you, again, to our loyal customers – old and new, from near and far – who have articulately expressed that you will miss everything Louis has represented in Boston for nearly a century.

It was a pleasure to hear from so many women who have shopped at Louis throughout the years. I found their comments reflected a sense of sadness that the discovery and entertainment of an afternoon spent at Louis would soon be lost. Many confessed the love they had for coming to the store to find something they had never seen before, or to fall in love with a garment that clearly went against the grain of mediocrity.

It’s been equally nice hearing from the men whom we have been dressing for decades, but the comments I’ve gotten from them seem a bit more distressed. Perhaps it’s because they understand that they can’t find the things we sell at Louis anywhere else in the country – and truth be told, they can’t.

The product I buy is made by hand and I am able to spec it to whatever I want. It’s very interesting to me when I go into stores like Neiman’s, Bergdorf’s or Saks, because while they may carry some of the brands I carry, they usually stock things in only exceptionally large sizes. I often wonder, do they think only a big or tall man can afford quality?

At Louis I know that our customer prefers a cut that is fitted and tailored to perfection. I also know they will want every last drop of the inventory I have because #1, I never buy an abundance of any one item, and #2 these men want (and need) to have a selection of sizes that truly fit.

What some men may not understand is that when you buy a garment in a department store that is already much too big on you, you are essentially asking your tailor to suck the soul right out of it by having it re-cut for you. When you try on a garment and have to adjust the sleeves or a nip or tuck here and there, it’s not taking the soul out of it – it’s making it fit you. That’s what we do best here.

So, I invite you all to come in to Louis before we close in July because, well, it’s not over until it’s over. I’ve spent a lifetime figuring it out what you want, and I understand what fits you well and what you will feel good in – from the moment you put it on, not after you get it back from the tailor.

I invite you all to come to Louis to discover the perfect fit – while you can still find the perfect fit in Boston.

IMG_5270

IMG_5278

IMG_5281

“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.

—-

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.

—-

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

photo 1

For Men…Again. The Workshop @Louis_Boston

Others may try, but none measure up.

Come see for yourself.

On Friday, May 16th and Saturday, May 17th, Louis Boston will host two great days for men…again. Since 1996, long before “Made to Measure” became a “thing,” we have been pulling out all the stops to create events that bring the makers of the finest men’s clothing in the world – to you, all in an effort to help you define your personal style.

It’s okay to ask for help.

Imagine a place, a mini-Pitti Uomo, where the finest fashion houses in the world come together in one spectacular location (Louis), with views to die for (Boston), so you can have an EXCLUSIVE preview of their Fall 2014 Collections.

I invite you to come in for a light bite, and stay to meet the brilliant minds behind Kiton, Belvest, Massimo Bizzocchi, Harry’s of London, PTO1, Valentini, Brioni, Tintoria Mattei, and Sartoria Partenopea. Men’s sartorial fashion at it’s very finest. We are honored to have them here and look forward to introducing you to them.

As if I haven’t made things enticing enough, I’ll let you know that most of what you’ll see here you won’t find anyplace else. What you’ll discover at Louis; the fabrics, the colors, the cuts – simply won’t be available in the “Made to Measure” book that everyone else gets. What you’ll see is only for me, and I bring it all here for two days, only for you.

I created this workshop because I am truly in love with menswear. The tradition of bespoke is a dying art, it needs to be honored, and you can’t do what we’re inviting you here to do on the Internet. If your instinct is to “google it,” I ask you to join us and let us educate you about what it really means to have a garment that has been completely handmade for your body. It’s three-dimensional, it’s molded to you, and there IS a difference.

When you’re in Italy the tailors there speak about menswear, and suits in particular, in hours; as in how many hours it takes to create one. It’s important to know when having this conversation that when they “create” a “24 hour sui” a machine will never touch your garment. Every piece of fabric is cut and sown by hand. Period. It will fit you, and only you.

Once you understand and appreciate that, I promise, you’ll never go back.

Next in line is a “12 hour suit” – one that is made by hand, but certain elements: the buttons, the lining or the pockets may have been added by machine. Still a distinct garment, created specifically for you, and worthy of a look at Louis.

After that, the suits you see in department and menswear stores across the country have been manufactured in factories. They have been sewn on machines and produced for the masses.

Needless to say, you won’t find those at Louis. Not for the workshop, not ever. Nothing we do is for the masses.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, we do things our own way at Louis. Always have. Always will.

Like I said, come see for yourself.

549015_10151576072058419_1585040893_n

Louis Collaborative 2014 email

 

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?

5dc6fa0ce623e6ced839890cc2ed1e74

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?

SONY DSC

The Men’s Workshop is Here!

It’s that time again!  Our Men’s Workshop has officially started and will continue through tomorrow.  We have Kiton, Massimo Bizzocchi, Belvest, Sartoria Partenopea, Finamore, Valentini, Nicky Ties, Harry’s of London, Cantarelli, Bespoken and Fray.

 

Make sure you don’t miss this amazing opportunity to hand select your Fall wardrobe with the world’s leading Men’s manufacturers helping you pick the perfect collar, tie, pant, fabric…  The way you want it.

 

Here’s a sneak peek!