Tag Archives: louis

Murray Pearlstein

We are saddened to announce the passing of a member of our family this past Sunday April 21, legendary Louis owner Murray Pearlstein. In the late 1960s, Pearlstein transformed our iconic store (founded by his father and uncle) as a buyer by importing Europe’s premier designers. In the 1990s he consolidated Louis’ several Boston area and Manhattan outposts into the monumental building on Boylston Street, formerly home to the Museum of Natural History. Over the years Pearlstein was the recipient of numerous international awards for Louis. He was widely respected by his colleagues and was known internationally as a “buyer’s buyer” for his keen and discerning eye for quality and craftsmanship. His innovation has made a lasting impression on the industry.

Although it’s a Season of Black and White, Here is a Word About Color

Three Cheers for Color and Pattern

So I can tell you right now by the time the collections are complete in the stores for Spring/Summer everything will look black and white. After two springs of “color, color, color” EVERYONE went back to black and white. But by April the stores will look so boring and unappealing consumers will be begging for some color.  As a buyer you choose from what is in front of you. But as I have been telling you for many years there has been this consensus before the shows even start and the media and stores are forced into a storyline. “These are the TRENDS”. If you are not careful as a buyer you might fall into this trap. But I find these trends leave little to the imagination of the consumers, making the consumers feel like mindless idots who can’t dress themselves without a STAR in a magazine showing them the way.

I am so excited about the merchandise in the store right now. It’s design at its’ best; modern, fresh and yes colorful. We will have our share of black and white, but why does everything have to be all or nothing? Here are some examples….

The Mix of Colors in this Dress are So Special!

Though the “trend ” for printed trousers started a few seasons ago, I think some designers are mastering the art of partnering patterns with high tech fabrics.

The Print on these Trousers Really Need to Be Seen in Person

Mix and Match is Half the Fun

One last photo of a cute little dress from Suno…nothing loud or on TREND just a cute little dress from Suno that you would love to wear all summer.

Stretch Silk and So Easy to Wear

What is the Real Price?

I travel to Europe the same time every year for work. I buy men’s during a specific time and I buy women’s a couple of weeks later during their slotted time. So buying airline tickets become a bit of an art to get the best seat for the best price. The fact that everyone sitting on the plane is paying a different price bothers me but when the airlines make up rules as they go along after they promised something different really disturbs me. Of course I’m talking about point redemption.

I’m old enough to remember when “points” first became the tool that developed loyal travelers to one airline. Once you traveled exclusively with one airline you could redeem “points” for a reduced price ticket or an upgrade. Then the airlines started losing money and they played this game of “how hard can we make it for you to redeem your points”. I believed the government stepped in with regulations, which stopped the practice. Then the airlines started to partner up with credit cards and the whole process started over again. And again it’s a game of preventing you from using your points. The difference this time is there are fewer flights with fewer choices to get you where you want to go. The question remains what the real price of a ticket?

Since this is Black Friday weekend, I found a statistic that floored me. In 2011, 226,000,000 shoppers visited a retailer or mall, or shopped on-line over the black friday weekend (according to the National Retail Fund). The population of the US is 314,165,11…do the math. Another number is that 90% of those shoppers plan to purchase items for themselves while 10% plan to buy presents for the holidays. The media claims there ARE some deals to be had but most of the deals will be there for the next 30 days and the best time to find an exceptional deal is still after Christmas. The new move is to open retail stores on Thanksgiving to get a leg up on the competition but numbers show that consumers were getting most of their deals on-line on Thanksgiving. All if this frenzy has created this zombie effect which is suppose to give the consumer what he/she wants a deal and the discomfort to go with it….it’s like a cocktail or a drug.

Ultimately it’s up to the consumer to find the right price. Armed with technology, the shopper must now navigate their way to find the real price. But what is the real price of an item? If the lowest price is the most important part of the purchase what is the real VALUE of an item? More importantly what is the real satisfaction of buying something? The price or the product? How can a shopper be satisfied knowing that the cost of the item when everyone is paying a different price? All this frenzy and we still don’t know the worth of things. Like what’s the worth of a civilized shopping experience, or the worth of an appreciated item? Believe it or not we, as a nation have been through this before, during the last depression. Price will not rule the day forever and soon the consumer will demand a product with an experience that is worthy of a real price.

“The Lowest Common Denominator”

 

Before Louis, I used to work in marketing for an advertising agency. We would come up with amazing advertising campaigns that would answer to the needs of our clients, with some humor thrown in for creativity. Inevitably, the campaigns would go in front of focus groups. First everyone in the group would chuckle at the ad. They would understand the message but sure enough, they would find some thing objectionable about our work. The client would panic and strip the ad of the very thing that made them enjoy it to begin with. I could never understand why it would be brought down to the lowest common denominator.

 

Recently, I met a very smart gentleman at a dinner one night that was the head of a company that mines data off websites. With that information, he finds patterns that are supposed to help companies sell more products and better serve its customers. What stuck with me the most from our conversation how differently generations are influenced to shop. My generation (Boomers) look to “known brands” as a reassurance for what we purchase. Generation X-ers look to their friends as a reference. The Millennials looks to complete strangers as their guide to purchases, whether through “curated” inspiration boards, blogs or publicly touted “likes” of products and brands. If this proves true then it explains the herd mentality that is prevalent in much of the content we view today. These socially driven endorsements are now dictating what we are feeling – from Dancing with the Stars to the political polls that are reported hourly – even if we are personally not feeling it. This really scares me.

 

The obsession with polls in this election cycle falls along these lines. It feeds right into this instant gratification of information thanks to the real-time nature of reporting. One blunder from the candidates, or their associates, and the polls skew one way until another blunder comes along. Then with that information the voters get saturated with advertising from the candidates until “the polls” say they are not effective any more. The candidates’ talking points are all based on polling.

 

The politicians are not talking about reality (maybe that hasn’t changed) but the candidates opinions change with every poll that comes out. Who votes like that? When you attempt to please more people at a greater volume, you end up lacking authenticity. For something so gullibly accepted by the masses like the polls, you’re losing the validity of these statements being real. With everything said to please the polls, it’s doubtful the soon-to-be elected officials will continue to shift at the masses every whim. Here, we think we’re getting what we want, but in turn, are giving up so much.

 

It really isn’t much different than the current state of retail. Generally, consumers are driven to shop by price. It’s funny, you don’t even have to mention what the product is, they just want to pay less for it. If surveys went further to ask consumers what would they would give up to get the lowest possible price, the answer is what the retail experience is today – and we still haven’t talked about the product! Consumer indifference has lead to the lowest common denominator, having us believe that getting the best price is the greatest goal. Now shoppers are expected to research the products, find them in big box stores, take it to long-lined registers, even check out and bag, then drag the bags to their cars – all by themselves.

 

Think about when you’re at a store with self check-out. You’re under the guise of getting “it” for less, but there’s a lot of work before you even swipe your credit card: you’ve become an expert on the product, whether it’s your cold medicine, cleaning products, electronics, whatever and then you have to scan and bag it yourself. We, as consumers, have become driven to this. We’re giving up the value of the experience and the civility of shopping for something perceived as a bargain or deal. Meanwhile, the large retailers from drug stores all the way up to the big box stores are making a 25-30% gross margin and lowering labor costs because you’re doing all the work (who’s the real winner here?).

 

We’ve been blinded into believing that choosing lower prices are what we want while having sacrificed service and direct information from the retailers. The fact is that this sort of mass consumer demand is showing up in all facets of life, much like how we’re blinded by politicians telling us what we want to hear rather than what they are really going to do in office. I know that saving money is SO important right now, but at some point living a less stressful life might be equal to the quest. And hopefully that will be the lowest common denominator.

 

 

WBUR’s Cognoscenti

Sorry it’s been a while since I have blogged but I was traveling, buying actually, for Spring/Summer 2013 (can you believe it’s 2013 already?). But in the meantime I was fortunate enough to participate in WBUR’s cognoscenti page on their website. Here’s the link, I think it came out well.

Cognoscenti

Meanwhile thanks for reading!

Suits by the Numbers

My most favorite number that I use to shock people about the men’s apparel business is this: 50% of the menswear business is done by Walmart…that’s in $”s. The menswear business is a $55 billion dollar business and Walmart’s men’s business is $27 billion. I promise you if one bore into that number you would find that about 65% of the shoppers of menswear at Walmart are women…maybe more. I know the dollars largely come from purchases of socks, underwear, jeans and t-shirts….but that’s what most men are wearing. As I state this to whomever I’m talking to (male) they usually act surprise and then look down at what they are wearing and say “yeah that makes sense”. They are so oblivious to what they are wearing that they don’t even know what they have on!

So Men’s Retail Magazine just came out with some numbers about suits that I find so interesting. The numbers are from a nationwide survey of 500 U.S. males ages 18 to 35 conducted in July. 67% of the responders ages 18 to 22 said they have bought a suit…that’s promising…73% ages 22 to 33 said they have bought a suit….again looking good. 63% of the responders ages 31 to 35 said they have bought a suit and even more troubling 55% of the responders 35 years old  have bought a suit (I think recently). REALLY so the interpretation is you buy one suit in your twenties and you use it until you absolutely positively have to buy another one. Wait the numbers get better.

42% of the responders shop at Men’s Wearhouse, 15% at Macy’s, 9% at JCPenny’s, 8%Kohl’s and 7% at Jos A. Bank (which was really surprising considering how many suits the say they give away FREE). The last 19% shop at Walmart, Burlington Coat factory, Dillard’s, H&M, Sears, Express, J Crew, Target and TJ Maxx. I guess the line “we guarantee you are going to like the way you look” works. But here’s the kicker of the 42% who shop at Men’s Wearhouse  69% buy on line….really without even trying it on??? Do they even know how a suit is supposed to fit? The real question is do they care? Why not? Why don’t men care?….oh how I wish they would, again.

I do have some experience in this matter. I know how many different areas on a man’s body that a suit needs to fit right so that it will lay properly and not look ….well….wrong. How about the fabric. When you buy a suit on line you can’t feel the fabric. Does it feel like sandpaper? Would you pay more for the suit if you knew it felt better? Would you buy a more interesting fabric if you could look at the detail of the fabric more closely?  Would you care more if you got involved in the process instead of running away from it?

It’s not like the fashion has moved on and the suit has been replaced by….let’s say… a spacesuit? The last portion of the survey really gives away the ambivalence towards the suit. 44% responders say they bought the suit for “special occasions” as opposed to 28% say they buy suits for work. 15% say they buy suit to look good (there’s a ray of hope), 7% to look professional (as opposed to work?) 5% for church and 3% for funerals (lovely thought). Since the mid 90’s suits have not been required at work, forced by a new generation that didn’t want to be like their fathers, and that generation thought they were ushering a new looser revolution in the work place. But they never figured out the new uniform….their leaders were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (both not well known for their attire). The new uniform ends up being mundane and nondescript with features like “no iron and stain-resistant”

There is a small underground movement of young men discovering the suit. They come into our store asking lots of questions. For me it’s a beautiful thing to watch. The suit has progressed so much in the the last 20 years and no one ever talks about the advancements. The industry did answer the problem of the suit being too uncomfortable by developing light, soft fabrics; and the tailoring has come so far to make the suit fit close to the body but allow the user to move freely. Of course I am talking about suits that DON’T have stain resistant and no iron fabrics (which are made up of mostly petroleum …who wants to wear THAT next to their body?)

So with these numbers there is nowhere to go but up. Perhaps with this next generation of employees, employers will demand a more professional workplace. After all “dress down friday” was started  to capture generation X workers when unemployment was at an all time low. Now we are at the opposite end of the spectrum, unemployment is at an all time high. Being competitive is a necessity and looking the part should be one as well.

The Year of The Woman

  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympics these last two weeks. One can’t help but be amazed at the tenacity of the US woman athletes. I am 56 so I’ve been watching the Olympics for many years.  There has been a definite switch in emphasis (or television time) towards woman athletes compared to the last two Olympics.

She's Only Sixteen

It’s not just individuals either.

A Dramatic Women's Soccer Final

And some Veterans are being honored.

A Three Time Olympic Gold Medal Champion

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how and when this transformation took place, but one could surmise that women have had to complete harder and faster in every aspect of their lives to achieve their goals. Under the radar women have broken through every sport with record breaking times, physical endurance, and mental focus.  With women comprising 57% of college attendance, and many women finally penetrating the upper ranks of the work force, they have learned that competing is a necessity for success. No longer are women accepting a passive road in their life. When the bar is set this high it will only push women more to be among the ranks of quality achievers.

Another trend about women has come to my attention in two articles that I read this week. One article was in the NY Times style section, talking about high tech women executives dressing up in a luxurious way (not fashionista but styled). Part of this trend has to do with changing perceptions; high tech people are usually perceived as “geeks”. To move that perception forward you need the “best costumes”. We have found that with our women customers, many of which have high powered credentials, they use their wardrobe as a banner to show their creativity and level of finish/polish. Which was exactly the point of the second article in WWD. They stated that women with executive titles in European Governments have really stepped up their attire to look finished and individually styled. Usually women in Government dressed non-descript or “manly” to try and not stand out. With so many women in these positions, they are now trying to do the opposite, “stand out “, and be remembered as a women who knows how to dress and present herself as well as being an accomplished public servant.

Women have definitely made their way in highly competitive fields and I am happy to say they are using their attire to stake their position.