Tag Archives: louisboston

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.

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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.

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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.

How Do We Get Out Of It?

Starting in the early 90’s we engaged in the frenzie of buying. As goods became cheap and disposable the act of shopping became our mantra, our therapy for whatever ailed us. Purchasing was the activity of the rich and famous, and for some reason we wanted to be “just like the rich and famous” (no matter who they were or what they accomplished). Well its been a long road to where we are today…a broken, divided country that refuses to budge on who is going to pay for all the thing we feel entiltled to. As Greece pulls the EU down , the United States should take a close look at how they are trapped in their own inability PAY for their sins. It’s quite clear how they got there …..citizens’ entitlements and the prosperous not paying taxes. But someone, some elected “Leader”, needs to be the mommy of the situation and say “You BOTH are wrong and you both need to give in to get ahead of this”. I don’t understand why human compassion doesn’t kick in and move towards a better evolution of living. We seem to be a very religious populous but don’t practice the basic principles of religion. But that’s Greece, not us right?

There are 3 million job opportunities in America right now. They may not be the ideal jobs, they may be jobs that feel like the work has no meaning…. but just the same they are jobs that PAY for things…and help the government create revenue to pay for the entitlements that keep our government working. Yes if the congress was working together we could make the neccessary cuts in those entitlements, but we can’t eliminate ALL of them to make this mess go away.

There are many billion dollar companies that are not paying their fair share of taxes. While (the ever important) small businesses of this country manage to pay their taxes at a higher rate. They do not have the lobbying power of big business to get that rate to where someone like GE is paying nothing. The same goes for hedge fund managers and companies that have their offices overseas to avoid paying taxes. Again they don’t want to PAY their fair share….they want a DISCOUNT…aren’t they just so smart????? There could be a compromise but no one wants to PAY for anything.

When did we get to this point of feeling like we shouldn’t be paying for anything? Wasn’t capitalism all about that…paying and making money or has it just become stealing money any way we can????

For the next five months wouldn’t it be rich if we had an honest debate about how we are going to get out of this mess, instead of all the negative retoric of whose fault it was….I know that won’t happen and I know we will be listening to blah blah that doesn’t mean anything and then we will vote for “someone” who made less mistakes in the blah blah world. It’s time to realize that we need to PAY for what we want and appreciate what we have….Please

What Do The Working Women Wear?

I’m in the middle of buying “Pre-Fall”…whatever that means…and I’m looking at some pretty nice things when it occurs to me that I keep say the same thing to these brands, “What is she going to wear “that” with to the office?” You would think I was asking the most ridiculous question. The answer is always the same “oh they can throw “that” over black pants or a skirt”. Really? So I ask “who do you think is wearing these $1500 tailored jackets?” The answer is women who work.

This kills me. I come from a time when women were lucky just to be able to be in the same office as men, never mind having the same job. We have gone through several incarnations of workwear for women and we finally have the freedom to express ourselves (granted with some limitations) and we still have to explain to manufacturers that all these expensive clothes are worn by women who have somewhere to go in them…they actually serve a purpose. it’s not just fashion.

Look at the Cut (which is outstanding,) the Fabric Brings in the Freshness

As you can see we are just getting in some great suits for spring that I think show there is creativity in this category…..which means someone is thinking about the customer,  not pandering to the unrealistic pages of fashion magazines. This next suit is from Jason Wu. He’s part of the new generation of great creative and technical designers that move the needle forward for womens wear.

His use of lace, technical fabric and zipper closure freshen up this spring staple

So Simple but is it Really?

Last but not least (at all) is what looks like a simple black suit from The Row, but upon closer inspection the delicious fabric, the hip structure that make you look skinny (believe it or not ) and the skinny pant makes this suit a head turner. These are just a few examples of the new work wear. This is also a reminder that when you come to Louis you are NOT just looking at “fashion” that a designer puts out there, you are looking at an edited collection of clothing that has a purpose for your lifestyle….and isn’t that why you buy clothes?

“That Shit Cray”

My 19 year old daughter took me to see Kanye West and Jay-Z last night. This is the truth. At the dinner we had before the concert she gave me a tutorial on some of the language and what it means and a small history of old school rap i.e. Jay-Z and how Kanye changed rap from  the streets to popular poetry. As she was talking to me I was looking at her remembering her first concert. She was 6 and I took HER to see the “Spice Girls” (indulgent but historical at the same time). I also took her to see Britney Spears twice, Janet Jackson, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and several Summer Jams. She went to see the Back Street Boys and Shakira with other parents; all by the age of 13. Now she was taking her mother to a concert ….this concept blew my mind. I would never have taken my mother to a concert at 19, and here she was taking pictures with me on her I Phone.

I kept thinking about all the times in the car when she was younger, she would turn up the volume (and the bass) when a rap song came on the radio.  I thought the songs were completely inappropriate (especially the messages about women).  She would yell back “it’s poetry Mom”. I shook my head and thought she’ll figure it out. I would say “every song sounds the same and has the same beat”, and she would say “it’s about the words Mom”.

Kanye and Sam

Let’s go back to how we got the tickets to this show (which by the way she saw in DC a few weeks ago when she was at school). I was early when I was on my way topic her up at the airport  on Sunday, so I stopped by the store to check in on things. While standing there in walks Kanye West and entourage. He was pleasant and introduced himself to me and complimented the store. All I could do was think about how I could get my daughter and get back so she could meet one of her favorite ….favorite…rappers? I jumped in the car and in a flash brought her back. With all the confidence in the world I watched her stick out her hand and introduce herself to him. Taking her lead I too started a discussion about his first attempt at  fashion with a show in Paris this past October. Though the show was an OK first try,  I thought his media response was dead on…”it was just his first attempt and fashion is about trying and learning from your mistakes”. He then picked up the conversation and went on about how nothing was going to stop him and he learnt so much, and his next go around would be better. I commented on his confidence and then he challenged me to come to a concert to see how much he changed rap music. I went and it did change my view of rap music. But another surprise was my daughter’s expression of satisfaction that  she had introduced me to an experience,  as I had done when she was young. As they always say, you are never too young to learn.

You Can't Miss His Presence

Here’s what I discovered. There must be thousands of words in every rap song. When the music started (the floor was shaking) the audience was shouting back the words to the performers. They knew every word, every nuance to every line. There were no musicians , no dancers, no strong melodies, just two people manning the synthesizers and  the performers with their words. So THIS was the poetry she was talking about. This was what moved this generation into memorizing hundreds of songs… it was exhilarating . These two performers had to be in the best shape to go on like this for 2 1/2 hours…. no stimulants here or they couldn’t get the words out…their energy was pure and real, and the audience was the same way.

Armed with Only Their Words

Here they are just sitting while the crowd was standing and completely motivated by their words. The encore was a process of the two of them singing the same song over and over, to beat the fact that they repeated it 5 times in Miami…Boston can claim that they repeated it 6 times, a record, and the audience shouted each time, like it was the first. The name of the song “Paris” the hook is “That Shit Cray”….i.e. That Shit’s Crazy…..it really was.

That Shit Cray

That Grand Feeling of Perfection

I love my new boots. Yes I know you hear it all the time the “perfect boot” for Fall. But I mean this…but how would you know. Every magazine, every website, every shopping website, every catalogue, even every store claims this every Fall. It kinda looses it’s meaning. Having said that when you find the right one for you, it feels sooooo good. Every time you put them on, with every outfit, you say to yourself, “wow these are great boots”. Your start to take care of them…you bring them to be resoled with a rush charge. When you pack to go away you start with the boots and figure out your outfits that will surely highlight the boots. You find yourself wearing them everyday and when you have to wear another pair you sigh and make sure your wear the “great boots” the next day. Sometimes if you are really careful you wear them two years in a row everyday until the boots just plain wear out.

cool side buckle, tight at the ankle and calf, tall, great leather, flat, comfortable

Great heel, no shiny leather, open at the knee, easy to get on and off

Sorry for the blurry pictures I was in a hurry but you get the picture right? Pierre Hardy had these boots last year, but he perfected them this season. You will probably not find these in any magazine, you will probably not find these on any website….because they do not register as perfection from the photos. They do not register perfection from the description. They do not register perfection from the name brand. Actually they would only register perfection if you actually saw, felt, tried on these boots when someone pointed to them in front of you and you tried them on immediately. The consumer is missing so much by falling into the trap of brands, ease and the addiction of point and click.

When I “buy” for the store, I look at each piece I purchase with the same inspection as I did buying these boots for myself. That feeling of perfection when you own something that rewards you every time you wear it, is the goal. There are so many items that are chosen that even looking at them on the racks of our store you wouldn’t know were perfection until you tried them on. I make sure I see everything on a body before I “buy” the product, especially shoes. Shoes look so different on and off the foot. Not everything comes out the way it was shown…fabrics can change fit can be funny, but to be sure I am inspecting and selecting with a sharp focus, and aiming for no mistakes.

But what I’m really reaching for ALL of the time is giving you that feeling of confidence every time you pull that garment out of the closet and put it on your body…..ahhhh appreciation!!!!!

I Forgot How Much Fun We Had in The 70’s

 

I usually poo-poo the fashion worn in the 70’s…it definitely was the worst time for men…it ruined the industry, Men have never trusted Men’s Fashion media and manufacturers/retailers since.  Separates dominated Women’s fashion during the 70’s and were the vehicle for individual expression. After the 70’s, the fashion mantra became EVERYONE wears black or EVERYONE wears denim and EVERYONE carries the “it” bag. Actually Women’s dressing during the first 50 of the 20th century were dresses, dresses, and dresses with a nod to jeans during the 50’s and a bigger nod to them during the 60’s. The 70’s gave the newly liberated woman a fashion choice with separates…separate tops, jackets, sweaters, pants, skirts and yes dresses. We had lots of fun in the dressing room the other day channeling the 70’s and here are some of the results. 

 

Check Out The Bag and Boots

 

This picture was taken with my IPhone and the Hipstamatic App. The film was “Float” and the lens was “Jimmy”. I love this App. Finally after eliminating the creativity of photography with digital cameras, there is an app that can change your photograph before you take the shot. It allows you to change the mood or the color or brightness….the possibilities are endless…what fun. Here’s another outfit created by “separates”.

Here's a Long Dress with a Knitted Fur Jacket

This again was shot with “Float” film and a “Jimmy” lens. Just as the word indicates the designers of these items are all separate as well. That’s the beauty of “separates” you can create new outfits everyday. This may change the way you shop, suddenly items have more merit by their flexibility, what you can put them with, instead of its’ designer.  It’s like the photograph you can mix films and lens and have multiple possibilities. Here’s another possibility:

 

Don't you just love Corduroy?

“Jimmy” again was the lens but the film was “Ina’s 1969” , doesn’t it look like it ….it matches exactly with the outfit. The color of the film looked like it came from a Kodak Brownie. Candice looks so cute and fresh with a vintage twist….so individual….Corduroy…. I don’t think I have worn that fabric since the 70’s. I forgot that it makes noise when you walk, and that it’s soft and comfy.

It is fun looking back….it’s fun teaching the next generation a look we created 40 years ago…..they look just as cute as we did…maybe.

 

Old School Jeans

Anyone who has listen to me talk about sportswear in the last five years has also heard me say “the one thing your closet doesn’t need is another pair of jeans. First of all I was sick and tired of looking at every American wearing jeans 24/7. No matter where we are, no matter what we are doing we are wearing jeans….sometimes ripped, sometimes bleached, sometimes hand rubbed they look sloppy and predictable. The funny thing is that jeans are supposed to be the great equalizer, but really they are the most toxic garment one can wear. 80% of the jeans made globally are made in China because of the toxic waste they produce. They have traced cancer in children near the rivers wear they have dumped the indigo dye that makes blue jeans …well… blue. Having said that….the best looms to make denim are in Japan (about 10% of the denim made). The Japanese bought all the machinery from American companies when we decided to make denim cheaply and washed out.

OK so here I go…I found a company “Raleigh”that makes jeans old school. I don’t know why but I was in the mood for it….The sales person for the company, John, will tell you I walked into their showroom with such an attitude….”I don’t buy jeans I leave that to department stores and jeans stores and A&F and The Gap and anyone else who wants to join in”. So why was I there? Because he asked me to come by. I felt like I was looking at jeans that James Dean would have worn. The denim was Japanese which means they had selvedge edges and the color that pure denim weave produces which is true dark denim. The fit has a low rise but not too low so they have that 501 feeling. Of course to make the jeans authentic they were raw (not washed) with a button fly….but after all it is 2011 so I had them rinsed once (so your washing machine and dryer won’t turn blue and the jeans won’t feel like sandpaper) and put in a zipper fly (so it’s easier to get on and OFF).

 

Old School Raleigh Jeans

I even shot the picture with old fashion film, and had the models cuff them, just like James Dean. Look at the women’s jeans they’re not skinnies, they are manstyle which looks great with a feminine top. (The women’s jeans have stretch in them which technically does not make them authentic but they sure do look like it.)

 

She really looks like she was from the 50's

One of the most important facts about the history of denim is that they started in America because they were made in America. Raleigh is also made in America. The tag in the back of the jeans states that fact and gives a certain air of authenticity.  I guess if I was getting back into the jeans game I should start at the beginning.

 

They make it easy to understand "Made in America"