Tag Archives: fashion

Until We Meet Again…

FullSizeRender

I’ve been saying it for a long time, but I suppose my voice got quieter about it as the decades passed. As I prepare to close Louis I want to make sure you know I that have always felt like it was a privilege to have the opportunity to express myself in the way that I have for all of these years. You have all given me the freedom to evolve, and ultimately create Louis for you.

Besides my role as a business owner I have always viewed myself, and my true function at Louis, as an interpreter of style. I made it my life’s work to go out into the world to see what I could find, interpret it, and bring it back to the city we all call home. When I reflect on the legacy of Louis I understand that my father, and my grandfather, and even my great-grandfather Louis, who made his interpretations though previously worn clothing, did it in much of the same way. I’m grateful that we’ve had a devout, supportive audience for nearly 85 years.

While I’m curious about what my future will look like without Louis in it, it’s no secret that my biggest fear is that other stores like Louis will all but disappear. Big business is taking over and I

worry that innovative minds won’t be given the opportunity to do what we did, and that people won’t have the ability to experience anything quite as magical as Louis has been throughout the years.

I talk often about evolution and appreciation, and while sometimes I feel like both have nearly been lost on ecommerce and big box superstores, I trust that someday they will come back. And I believe Louis will be there when they do, for the next generation.

**

I must take this opportunity to thank all of the amazing sales consultants who have shared their talents with all of us for so long, including Arthur Jordan, who has been a part of our family for 48 years. I’m not sure where he’ll land yet, but when he does…make sure you find him. I’m proud to have had the best in the business by my side year after year. There is not another group of people in the city as devoted to their mission as those who have walked the floor at Louis throughout the years. I have seen them work tirelessly with their clients to make sure each and every one of them walked out of Louis satisfied.

I also need to thank the other members of the staff that stayed behind-the-scenes with me and did everything in their power to make sure Louis was the best experience around. I don’t know what I would have done with out you.
In my years at Louis we have pioneered some of the top designers, past and present. It was a pleasure to bring you Public School and Tim Coppens, Greg Lauren and Simone Rocha, Rosie Assoulin and Rosanna Getty, to name a few. I will miss their love for their craft and the energy they brought to my travels.

I’ll miss my incredible vendors including my dear friend Mossimo Bizziocchi, and of course I will miss lunch at Sam’s. But most of all I’ll miss all of you…our loyal customers.

Thank you for patronizing Louis since 1930.

Until we meet again…

-Debi

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

Arthur Jordan – The Best in Boston – A Legend at Louis

Throughout the years at Louis, I’ve seen so much. I’ve met so many incredible people and seen so many rich and exciting things. Colors and fabrics change, patterns and lines evolve, but one thing has always remained the same, and that one thing is Arthur Jordan.

Arthur has been with Louis for as long as I can remember, and as far as I’m concerned, there will never be a better sales consultant in this city. I’ve been watching him work for decades, and quite honestly, the way he works with people is from a different era. He works with respect and taste – acting as part psychologist, part comedian, and part stylist. Perhaps more importantly – part futurist, always knowing a customer wants before they even know they want it. In the eyes of the industry, THAT is a value of a salesperson. No one is as good as Arthur, and no one will ever match his talent again. It’s an art form I am admittedly sad to see end.

Arthur has always been the ultimate wardrobe sales consultant in my eyes. It’s no secret that men aren’t always completely equipped at making the best sartorial choices, and it’s for that reason that gentlemen like Arthur will always be needed and valued.

As we have been preparing to close our doors this summer, nothing has made me happier than to see Arthur’s clients come in to honor him and get a taste of his service – one last time.

There will never, ever be anyone like Arthur Jordan. He is – the quintessential Louis experience.

Now it’s my turn to honor him. I asked my friend and writer, Jamie Kohn, to meet with Arthur and learn more about his past, present and future – and here’s what he told her…

ARTHUR JORDAN

Arthur Jordan has been a part of the Louis family since September 1967. He grew up in Dorchester, and went to Dorchester High School. If you ask him where he went to college he’ll tell you, “U of MP,” the University of Murray Pearlstein.

Jamie:

Tell me about the “U of MP:”

Arthur:

Well, I say that I went to U of MP, because Murray Pearlstein was the one who really gave me my education – in business and in life. My first job in retail was at a local Dorchester shop called Mike’s. Then I headed into Boston proper to work for the National Pant Company. It was in Chinatown, on Boylston Street – right in the middle of what used to be known as The Combat Zone. During that time there were really only two great places to shop in Boston – Martini Carl…and Louis. I had been working at Martini Carl for a couple of years and one afternoon, Bob Itri (who had been at Louis for 45 years during his career) came in one day and told me Louis, Murray’s cousin, had heard about me and wanted to meet me. Now, Louis was just the best store in Boston, and I have to admit I was pretty intimidated. Bob arranged for Murray to take me around the store, and before we were finished he offered me a job. I was shaking – but I took it.

I started to work in the Berkley shop – on the third floor. It was like an upscale Brooks Brothers, but much cooler with the fit and the prices. I worked under a gentleman names Frank Nunuez who ran the shop until the early 70’s. At that time Murray was doing all of the buying, except the street level, which was Wally Horn’s haberdashery shop. Eventually Louis and Murray bought Wally out, and Murray started to buy everything.

After two to three years in the Berkley shop, Murray asked me if I would join him on his buying trips. I figured I must be doing something right. This was around the time he started traveling overseas to the European market. We started meeting with the Italians, marveling at their tailoring and fine lines, and began to bring the look to Louis. Every year, for about 20 years, we would travel to New York City, London, Paris, Milan, and Florence. Went to the shows, and showrooms, and met with every famous designer you can think of: Pierre Cardin, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, etc., etc. We were hooked up with the best of the best.

It was fascinating, and quite a ride to be with Murray. He was a fiery man who knew what he wanted. He had a vision, and he had a passion that was just incredible. It was contagious, and I captured all I knew from him.

I traveled and bought with Murray for a very long time before Debi came into the business and continued to evolve the store. I was happy to become the Vice President of Sales and Merchandising, and my passion for the business never changed. There is no place like Louis. I never looked back.

From the concept shop “DOWN with Louis,” to the two locations we had at one time in Faneuil Hall, to the shops in Cambridge and Chestnut Hill, to our home of 20 years at the old Bonwit Teller building, which is now only known as “the old Louis building,” it’s been an incredible life in fashion.

Jamie:

What did you think of our move to the Fan Pier?

Arthur:

The move was characteristic of the Pearlstein family. Murray had tremendous strength and insight, and Debi is the same way. I think that’s been the bottom line of the success of Louis. She and her father took all the heat this town could throw at them, but they were both leaders and always made dynamic choices. I traveled with Murray for many years and got to know him very well. I feel like I know Debi well too, and understand her choices because she wouldn’t have it any other way. She is direct and I will always have an incredible respect for her and all that she has accomplished. I know a lot of people gave her a hard time for moving, but she hung in there – she changed the way she was buying and kept thing moving forward. It was interesting, and quite rewarding, to see the people who doubted the move eventually come out of their comfort zone of Newbury Street to see what we were doing on the waterfront. One after the other, people would walk into the store and it was as if a lightbulb went on over their head, and they finally got what this evolution was all about. The evolution of Louis is what’s kept it alive. Business has been great to this very day, and it will be good to go out on a very high note.

It’s been a great run of 85 years, and I have 47 in.

Not bad.

Jamie:

Looking back, what really made Louis special for you?

Arthur:

Special? Louis has always been special in so many ways, but the thing that stands out to me the most is the dedication both Debi and her father had for always wanting to have the best store in the world – and to merchandise it the way no others do. Instead of trying to have what everyone else has, Louis has always had what Louis had – its own looks and styles. And to this day, the same holds true, and it’s why so many customers continue to love this place I’ve called home for so long. I enjoy having customers from all over the country and all over the world, and I appreciate that while they come to Boston for so many things (education, banking, etc.) they continually patronize the store. Over the years we’ve collected an incredible amount of people who are regular clients. Simply put, I know they love and appreciate this store.

Jamie:

Besides the respect from your clients and colleagues, what do you attribute to your longevity at Louis to?

Arthur:

Well, I didn’t really have a goal to get into retail, but I was young, and liked the clothing, and enjoyed myself. Getting to Louis and meeting Murray was inspiring and led to wonderful things. I don’t know what he saw in me, but I’m still here, so that’s something. But I have to say, he probably fired me at least a dozen times. One day we were walking down the street and I said, “Murray, you’ve fired me at least a dozen times – and I’m still here.” I paused and said, “What does that say about you?” He just chuckled and walked away. I was here to stay and we both knew it.

Jamie: …and once Louis closes?

Well, Our customers are asking where they can shop. There’s no other place like Louis, and quite honestly I’m not sure where to direct them. There is no good answer. Louis has always been the whole package, and we have merchandise you just can’t buy in other stores. You have been hand picking every item in the store, and creating fabrication and cut. You can find Kiton at Neiman’s but it will look nothing like the Kiton you would find at Louis.

Jamie:

If you could leave your customers with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Arthur:

There are no experts, only people with opinions.

I want people to know that they can’t dress for other people. I’m no expert, but I’ve helped a lot of people and seen some amazing things, and it’s a wonderful feeling to help someone and give them confidence.

The “Louis Look” puts checks and plaids and stripes together – but some men shied away because they lacked the confidence to go for it. I encourage you all to go for it, and when someone shakes their head don’t let them shake your confidence.

Jamie:

What’s next for you Arthur?

Arthur:

Customers are asking, “Where are you going?” But I honestly don’t know. I’m listening to offers and thinking about things. I could, but certainly don’t plan to retire. I still have gas in the tank and want to be in action.

This is what I do, so stay tuned for the next chapter of Arthur Jordan.

Arthur Jordan and Joseph Abboud

Arthur Jordan and Joseph Abboud

IMG_6372

Arthur Jordan, Featured in Esquire Magazine

IMG_6379

Arthur’s Original Business Card From “DOWN with Louis”

IMG_6380

Recognition from Esquire Magazine

IMG_6383

Arthur’s Mentor – Murray Pearlstein

IMG_6384

Arthur Jordan / Model

IMG_6394

Arthur Jordan on the left, Modeling for Louis

IMG_6396

Arthur Jordan – Modeling for Louis

IMG_6402

Arthur Jordan – Modeling for Louis

THIS Is Appreciation

From the time I was a young girl, growing up with all things Louis, I was taught many things. But the one thing that always stood out above the others was:

Don’t forget your customer.

Last week I was reading another piece by Cathy Horyn, a fashion writer for New York Magazine, and her message was the same. In the midst of all the business and frenzy – we can’t forget about who is wearing and buying the clothes.

At Louis, things begin and end with our customers. We never want to dictate what they should be wearing, we want to understand what they want, and create an atmosphere and curate collections of clothing that will make them feel they can be exactly who they want to be, but maybe a little bit better. We introduce change and newness and technology in fabric that they might not even know they need in their wardrobe. But once they incorporate it into their lives, they know they do. Retail has, and always will be the reason people go out to buy something NEW.

**

While the weather and other insanity around the world have been taxing on the retail business, you wouldn’t know it if you walked into my tailor shop. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that it’s practically overflowing, and that tells me that what I have been doing all these years really did make a difference in our city. And it tells me that our customers are making sure they take advantage of an experience like Louis, before we close our doors.

And I’m honored because of it.

It shows me that our customers understand what it means to walk into a store and have someone anticipate their needs and wants. They know that we know what’s in their closet and how to update their look… one last time.

It has been immensely rewarding to see our customers come in and buy with appreciation, knowing that the experience will soon be gone. I may not say it often enough, but it’s truly rewarding to me to know that they understood. And it means everything to me that they have developed relationships with all of the talented, exceptional sales consultants who have shown such a steadfast commitment to what they do.

A lot of customers have begun to ask, “Where will we go now?” To be honest, it makes me feel a little badly about closing, because I don’t really know how to answer them adequately knowing that, right now, there is not another experience in Boston quite like Louis.

However, I am deeply appreciative of the fact that they appreciate THIS. While press and awards are nice, nothing compares to the rewarding feeling I have lately, knowing people really do get it.

I talk a lot about the changing landscape of retail and fashion, but I hope there are things that find their way back to the authentic place they used to be. Ecommerce may take it down for a while, but once people realize they’re missing the human touch, they might appreciate it once again. I’m hopeful.

I just wanted to say that because of you I feel appreciated for what I did and what Louis stood for, and what it will stand for until we close our doors.

Thank you for making me feel appreciated!

 

IMG_4715

The Revolving Door of Fashion

A long time ago, when I started this blog, I used it as a forum to talk about fashion, but also to talk openly and honestly about the state of the industry and the things I found incredible and / or concerning about it. It’s a slippery slope to write about fashion because on one hand you want to be supportive of the art and design, and on the other you have to be realistic about fashion as a business and the often-ugly truths about it.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about the industry too, and even more so lately with the honesty of some of the writers, and often times even designers who are questioning the state of things and the direction the industry is taking.

Last week, one of my favorite fashion writers, Cathy Horyn, wrote an excellent piece for New York Magazine about something I’ve been saying for far too long – that the industry, acting like a revolving door for some designers, is continuing to lose it’s luster.

If you follow the industry it’s no secret that in an effort to “revive” what were some very successful brands, there is a constant merry-go-round of designers that come in and go out, and get traded like athletes. But should they?

According to various sources, Carven, a fashion house founded in 1945, had many notable license agreements through 70’s, and has had substantial changes in investors and designers in 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, and finally 2015 with Alexis and Adrien Martial Cailaudaud at the helm and showing their first collection for the brand. Is it even fair to keep calling it Carven?

Other examples, where new designers came in and I think ultimately undermined the essence of a brand were Alexander Wang for Balenciaga, and Karl Largerfeld for Chanel. The designers make an effort to identify with the style of the brand, but ultimately end up only able to offer an exaggerated example. They try to make things “modern,” but to many, educated eyes, they come up short and can’t quite deliver the authenticity they may strive to.

And while the fashion writers continue to try to figure out where the authentic designers are, the authentic designers are trying to resist the lure of big business and live a life as close to the integrity of their craft as they can get. Some eventually succumb to fame and fortune, and others (thankfully) say, if I can’t be authentic, then why bother?

What’s even more interesting is that most of the designers that can afford to stay authentic are usually wealthy women, who love fashion, have talent, and won’t – make that don’t – have to compromise for anyone. From Stella McCartney, to Victoria Beckham, to Rosetta Getty, to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen of The Row, they stay true because the can. The same holds for Phoebe Philo and Céline. While she doesn’t’ come from a place the others do, the brand has stayed true, and Phoebe has real talent, and that is the winning combination.

On the other hand, are people noticing that in most of the major fashion houses where the designers are rotating through are usually hiring men? They come. And then they go. Which begs the question: does having a “muse,” qualify you to design what’s best for women?

It’s just something to think about, really.

And all of this brings me back to the point I continue to make, that things with real substance and integrity are being honored less and less…and less.

I am hopeful for the future in fashion because while Cathy Horyn observes how “many designers have a one-dimensional view of glamour that boils down to tits and fringe,” designers like Phoebe Philo continue to look for ways to remain innovate and authentic – and try to answer the questions; What is too much? What is not enough? And what looks authentic?

Céline

Céline

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney

The Row

The Row

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Rosetta Getty

Rosetta Getty

 

The Method Behind Our “No Technology” Madness

Last month, when I announced that Louis would be closing its doors for good in July, the response was overwhelming. So many well wishers, a handful naysayers, and two or three people who claimed they knew more about my business than I ever could. The assessment walked a fine line between critiquing me and promoting their own interests, but I found the comments interesting nonetheless.

One savvy blogger wrote that they knew Louis was closing because of our major “tech fail.” They stated that the barrier created between our customer and us once we moved from our trendy Newbury Street location to the rapidly developing Fan Pier could only be repaired if we took a cruise down Digital Drive. After a few more clever, yet uninformed sentiments were declared, the blogger asked, “…being such forward thinkers, why (did) LOUiS shun tech?”

Well, for those of you holding your breath…here’s why:

I’ve been reading a lot, in the Business of Fashion, WWD, etc. about the benefit or deficit of adding a multi-channel sales strategy to your business. And there are reasons why the benefit hasn’t been definitively defined and the deficit remains. A shining example is Gucci – a brand that has a global, multi-channel sales strategy that has compromised and weakened, and deteriorated the cachet of what Gucci once stood for.

It was recently announced that, Frida Giannini, the Creative Director for Gucci since 2005, would be stepping down. According to an article in The New York Times, the company claims that after Tom Ford, Ms. Giannini couldn’t maintain the “buzz,” and after 9 years would be leaving the brand. Did she lead the iconic fashion brand astray, or should the fact that “Luxury consumers, particularly in China, have turned away from Gucci’s signature logo-emblazoned goods in favor of subtler fashion statements” be telling them something.

Further into the article you get the sense that their parent company, and Kering’s chairman, François-Henri Pinault, recognizes that “Over the last five-seven years, there has been a great change in the world of luxury in terms of scale and growth, and we are facing the question of how to maintain exclusivity while continuing to grow.”

I would argue that you can’t. You can find Gucci everywhere these days, and when you can find a brand everywhere, it’s not exclusive and it’s simply not a luxury brand anymore.

As is expected, all successful industries spend a great deal of time and money listening to their consumer – and the consumer says that they want it fast, and they want it cheap. But when you give the consumer something fast and cheap, they are at the same time agreeing (willing or ignorantly) to give up a little (or a lot of) quality as well. Companies react to their customers to maximize what they want as quickly as possible, to the point where the consumer experiences fatigue, loses interest, and really doesn’t care for the brand anymore.

Perhaps this is what has happened to Gucci. And perhaps instead of talking about it, the company thought technology would fix it, but actually technology is breaking down the brand even further.

Let me ask you – why wouldn’t a person go into a Gucci store, find something they like, turn their back, pull out their smartphone, and find it online or at another retail location on sale?

People think that brands will be obsolete if they don’t incorporate technology into their model, and my argument is that technology or not, most brands will be obsolete anyway. You can sell out and expect people to pay full price when they know they don’t have to.

Another great example of “too much” is the GAP. After thriving for the better part of 40 years, they are now the perfect representation of how a perfectly good thing can go awry when you grow too much. They have become a sad example of brand that has to be so “across the board” they can’t get it back. It seems that every two years they promote something to the effect of “Too much fashion? Let’s go back to basics,” and two years after that they say “You’re too basic! Let’s get back to fashion.” They just let go of their creative director too, and they can blame whomever they want, but the bottom line is, how can you get it all right when you have so many categories to service?

I’ve heard from several people that the fashion at the popular brand J.Crew is beginning to lag now they too have so. many. stores. Perhaps it can be said that Mickey Drexler, former CEO of the GAP, current chairman and CEO of J.Crew, has become a victim of his own paradigm. He knows how to get these companies going, but burns them out by inventing too many ways and locations to sell them.

Once you get that big, you can’t cut things back, you just have to be that much more generic with what you do.

However, some brands have figured out how to beat the system and keep their sales intact. Stores like H&M, Uniqlo, Top Shop, and Zara have mastered the art of copying design trends, keeping production costs low, and establishing a quick turnover of a product that is unique to them. They control the ebb and flow and they are growing because of it.

There was a day when people didn’t want to buy something with a click. There was a day where people saved their money to purchase something of quality that they coveted. They were proud and they appreciated the accomplishment. Now, sadly, those days are all but gone.

And what of the actual products. It seems like no one talks about the products anymore, they only talk about the incidentals like: is a celebrity wearing the brand, and what was Kim Kardashian’s #OOTD today?

What ever happened to appreciation of craftsmanship? Don’t you want to know what it feels like? Don’t you want to try it on? Don’t you want a knowledgeable sales person to recommend what he or she knows will work with your body? Don’t you want to know that what works for Kim, isn’t going to work for you.

For me, the real problem with technology is that it is taking away the art of choice. Your smartphone or iPad or television tells you what you want, and you believe it. When you shop online, and therefore eliminate all of your senses while doing so, you end up with generic goods – but at a price. And as a result, brands are no longer pushing the envelope the way they used to. Generic is expected and brands are learning how to deliver it. That’s not a world I care to live in, and I certainly wouldn’t let LOUiS live there either.

Eventually consumers will realize what they gave up, understand that overall they weren’t really saving money, but instead were being lured into a world where corporate, crowd-sourced products are simply being reproduced again, and again, and again.

So, while some of you prefer to stay in and shop glued to your smartphones and tablets, other are excited to be out in the world honoring individuality, effort, and ingenuity. Some of us actually enjoy the art of exploration, and make a concerted effort to seek out the things that possess value and have longevity.

IMG_5592

Maison Ullens Sweater and Skirt, Jason Wu Blouse, Pierre Hardy Shoes

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

The End of an Era

It’s been quite interesting, reading all of the articles that have come out since last Friday when it was announced that I have begun preparation to close the doors of our beloved Louis this July.

Regardless of the speculation of our critics, moving to the Fan Pier was the best decision I have ever made for Louis. While my family has been in love with Boston for nearly a century, the thing that kept us relevant was the fact that we were forward thinkers and believed in evolution.

I am grateful for Joe Fallon, for sharing his vision with me and for introducing the rest of you to the gorgeous, undiscovered property that has been our home since 2010. If you ever gazed out of our windows or sat on the balcony of Sam’s while sipping a cold beer, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’ve been missing out.

To reiterate, business has been on point and invigorated by young CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners including Tim Coppens, Paul Andrew, Public School, Proenza Schouler, and Jason Wu. We were further inspired lately by the beautiful minds of Simone Rocha, Rosie Assouline, Jonathan Simkhai, Jacquemus, Greg Lauren, Baja East, and countless others. Traveling around the globe 5 months each year and getting to know each and every one of them personally has been my pleasure and I am grateful for the art and discovery.

I have been choosing what Boston’s most fashionable would wear for decades, and now it’s time to make some choices for myself. I look forward to this early retirement and all that it will afford me, including spending valuable time with the people who have exercised incredible patience while I have been focused on the store. Furthermore, I am excited to pursue interest and passions, both personally and in the community, that I have only dreamed about until now.

To the naysayers of this announcement, we expected you, and we appreciate your interest.

For our supporters, we thank you – for patronizing Louis. We are grateful for the posts, comments and tweets that acknowledge Louis as a beacon of light in Boston fashion. Trust us, we are going to miss you just as much as you are going to miss us.

Like you have said, it is the end of an era – a wonderful, fashion filled, evolving era.

DSC_0251

Keeping Up With Kendall Jenner (And Her 16 Million Instagram Followers)

Forget about Keeping up with the Kardashians, how on earth will we ever keep up with Kendall?

On November 21st the New York Times published a rather lengthy article about Kendall Jenner – daughter of Kris, sister of Kim, and sister-in-law of Kanye – and the new face of legendary beauty industry empire Estée Lauder. This coveted contract has been in the possession of several talented actresses and supermodels in years past, but now…they are handing it over to Kendall.

Forgive the hint of sarcasm here, but I, like a lot of you, can’t seem to quite put my finger on why this family, and this sister in particular is deserving of any such coveted honors. Is it because she’s a leader in fashion and beauty? Is she a style icon in the industry? Has she has earned the spot by working her way up in the fiercely competitive world of modeling?

It turns out the answer is none of the above. It’s widely reported that she got the coveted contract because she has more social media followers than all of us combined, and this is her reward.

Foregoing the route of traditional publicity driven press releases, Vogue magazine broke the news of the contract on their website (their headline read “Kendall Jenner Social-Media Sensation Turned Beauty Star), and the New York Times reported that Kendall (she is trying to drop the “Jenner”) was encouraged to spread the word on her own social channels, and boy did she ever!

Her Instagram announcement post was “liked” more than one million – Yes ONE MILLION – times. The rest of her social media stats are also staggering. Believe it or not, she has 16 MILLION Instagram followers, 9.1 MILLION Twitter followers, and 7.3 MILLION likes on Facebook.

And I’m back to asking myself, WHY?

Why is this generation okay with famous people who are only famous because of the social media followers they have that made them famous? Is this Kendall Jenner’s credibility, and is this the new standard for credibility? Does it mean your fashionable because you have 9.1 Twitter followers?

I’ve addressed it before, but where have all the icons gone? Are you an icon because you have followers or because you truly have a sense of style and walk out the door looking sensational.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of liked it when the collective standard was a lot higher.

Some of you may be saying, “Oh Debi, you just don’t get it,” but I really do. It’s just difficult for me to understand that as a style icon, Kendall doesn’t have style – she has “followers,” and apparently that’s all you need…and what they say goes.

All of this brings me back to one last thought on Black Friday. As I wrote in my blog last week, Black Friday has become a manufactured holiday that maintains little to no real value. Vendors manufacture goods for this sales event to make the consumer think they are getting a deal. I was listening to NPR last weekend when they exposed that the retail giants don’t even change their Black Friday ads from year to year anymore. They simply continue to manufacture the same sub-standard products every season in an effort to dumb down anything the consumer has come to expect. Judging by the lines of people camped out in front of their stores for days and even weeks on end – it seems they have succeeded. They’re saving money and you are getting a deal. Does that sound right?

It makes me wonder, is Estée Lauder getting a “deal” with Kendall Jenner? Has her worth as their spokesperson been manufactured by her followers, so much so that the consumer thinks they’re getting what they want?

It begs the question, does the sheer amount of her followers justify the rest of us giving up standards that have merit, for something that really has none?

Is Kendall Jenner all that we can afford?

kendallpicstitch

Thomas Tait – He Belongs To The World Now

If you’re into design – and if you’re reading this I know that you are – you already know that Canadian-born, London-trained designer Thomas Tait won the Inaugural LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize yesterday.

What you may not know is that I literally searched for and found Thomas Tait when he was finishing his MA at Central Saint Martins in London way back in 2010. Shortly after he won the Dorchester Collection fashion prize that year I saw his work in an editorial spread in some British fashion publication. I sent my assistant on a wild chase, and of course she found him, and we met for the first time in his publicist’s office.

If memory serves, he had 10 pieces in his first collection, and in January of 2011 I placed my order for fall. After that we were the only store in the US to carry his line – for at least two seasons. Since that time, WWD is reporting that Tait has found a home in only 10 specialty stores…and that number still includes LOUiS!

When I reflect on what it was about Thomas that made me fall for his work, I know it was because he fulfilled my never-ending quest to find something new. I’m never interested in regurgitation, but I am always interested in innovation that moves fashion forward. And that is what he is doing! Also, I had done a lot of work with Jil Sander in the 90’s and Thomas’s minimalist approach and astute attention to the detail of his craft reminded me so much of her. If you’ve ever seen a piece from any of his collections you know that nothing he creates leaves the factory until the garment is absolutely perfect, inside and out. These are not qualities you can learn necessarily, they are qualities you are born with.

Yesterday, after hearing the news, I was thrilled to be able to send him a text message to congratulate him and let him know how proud I was of him and all that he has now accomplished. His endearing response of, “I can’t wait to tell you all about it,” left me feeling, well…special.

Then I got this text from an old friend I approached about investing in Thomas Tait years ago:

“I should have listened to you.”

That was all it said.

And this is where things become bittersweet for me because I know that Thomas Tait belongs to the world now. My hope is that the industry will do their job well and continue to elevate him, with respect, to exactly where he should be.

Of the 11 finalists in the LVMH New Designer competition, Louis carries 8 of them; so now there are 7 other designers, including Suno, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Tim Coppens, and Simone Rocha, yet to be discovered at 60 Northern Ave. Are you going to wait for LVMH to tell you how spectacular they are, or should you simply come and see so for yourself?

ttait_ss14

ttait_ss14_3

ttate_ss14_2