Tag Archives: Melinda Gloss

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

Where Have All The Icons Gone? Menswear: A History

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that my affinity for clothing, especially men’s clothing, began long ago.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact I’m the fourth generation of my family to own and operate Louis, and all that goes along with that is now in my blood. Contrary to what people may believe, Louis wasn’t founded to sell women’s clothing. As a matter of fact, the history of Louis was built around the best menswear money could buy, and both my grandfather and father were pioneers in the industry.

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

My father, Murray Pearlstein surrounded by his cousins Louis (l.) and Jerome (r.)

From L to R: Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle), Saul Pearlstein (my grandfather), and a few of their dapper friends.

From L to R: Louis Boston owners Nathan Pearlstein (my great uncle, Louis and Jerome’s father), and Saul Pearlstein (Nathan’s brother, my grandfather)…and a few of their dapper friends.

In the 1930’s and early 40’s, when the silent film era began to decline and “talkies” took over, the movie studios understood the value in their investments, and had beautiful clothes custom made for the actors in their films. They brought in the best tailors from Italy; to dress them, and give them what would soon become “signature styles.”

A craft that had been taught and passed down from generation to generation, the Italian tailors took the business of fabric, tailoring, and fashion very seriously. The garments were handmade, and depending on the region of origin, were distinctly different from one another. Hollywood brought them over to help their stars develop distinct differences as well, and they did.

You only have to take one look at the suits Cary Grant wore, with defined shoulders, lapels, and patch pockets…or the fitted garments Gregory Peck wore, with much stronger shoulders and very baggy pants, to see the incredible custom work that was being done and the impact these “style icons” were beginning to have on fashion. As Grant’s co-star, Eva Marie Saint remarked about the actor: ”Other men wear suits. But with other men, there’s the man and then the suit that’s on him. That didn’t happen to Cary Grant. Style was like (his) skin.”

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

When the war was over at the end of the 40’s the Italian tailors returned to Italy, but they took something from the United States with them. It was here that they first became privy to the concept of “off the rack;” and the understanding that suits did not have to be made entirely by hand to be special. For the first time they began to alter their designs for a much broader audience, and my father was among the first to buy them and bring them back to Boston. Even though the garments were now part of a larger production process they still had the quality only the Italian tailors could impart to them. They were still something special. Word spread, and toward the end of the 50’s and more so throughout the 60’s and 70’s, when the Baby Boomers were starting to take their fashion more seriously, Louis saw a substantial amount of growth. It was around this time, when I was a young woman, that I took a real interest in Louis and our family business.

My father developed a shop within our shop called “Down with Louis,” which was created for consumers in my generation. He was importing 3 piece suits from Italy, crafted in gorgeous gabardine fabrics, and sold them for $125 each. With a sales team made up of only women (including me!), our male clients couldn’t get enough and began to buy 6 or 7 suits at a time, in every color they could get their hands on.

As the 70’s wore on and designers continued to develop their lines based on the signs of the times, men’s fashion took a turn…for the worse. Men were being presented with Rayon suits and chunky, high heels shoes, and after a brief fascination with the trends, they started to turn in another direction. They abandoned these clown suits (sorry!) and sprinted back toward conservative and emerging designers like Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren who knew exactly how to “save” them. Throughout the 80’s they did just that by creating comfortable “uniforms” so men didn’t have to think or be different. They were simply, and gladly, fitting themselves in to the images the designers created. The “Armani suit” infiltrated the professional set, and from preppy, to safari, to dude ranch, to Wall Street – Ralph Lauren mastered the presentation. Men who weren’t sure anymore about how to dress themselves felt a wave of relief. It was all there for them. It was painless, mindless, and safe.

They ran from this:

1978 Men's Fashion Advertisement Vintage 1970s Menswear 5-1

To this:

Armani

Armani

and this…

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

Similar to the history in women’s fashion, the 90’s brought all things to a screeching halt because Generation X wanted nothing to do with nostalgia or achieving a particular “look.” The truth was everything to the contrary. The demise began with the notion of “Dress Down Friday” which turned into, “Fu*k it…let’s dress down every day.” “Deconstruction” and “Grunge” made men deconstruct wearing a suit to wearing, well, anything…and besides bankers and attorneys, you would see everything from ripped t-shirts, old jeans, sneakers, and even pajamas on the street. This was fashion?

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Later in the decade the tech bubble burst which required GenX to find “real” jobs and present a bit more professional. Suits were still out of the question, and when the next century began a new uniform emerged in the form of no crease, no stain, fabrics made from Petroleum and Teflon. White t-shirt + blue button down shirt + gray suit =  fashion? I know you remember it well. photo

Soon thereafter, with a downturn in the economy, men’s fashion began to genuinely lose its footing and once again men became unsure of where to turn…to find another uniform. Because of the spread between generations, and due to the fact that is no longer a “one suit fits all” landscape, it seems that luxury department stores have had to divide the shopping experience for men into “tailored” or “designerwear.” In my opinion, they’re getting extremely lost on the path between two places, and I think their customer is getting lost right along with them. Tailored clothing are no longer one style fits all, and designerwear has developed into extremes that are unequivocally not for everyone. barneyspicstitch

To be honest, if they don’t find what they’re looking for soon I’m afraid men are going to rebel like they did in the 70’s and we’re all going to find ourselves staring out into a sea of mediocrity once again.

So where do men turn for their inspiration today?

Long gone are the days of Marcello Mastroianni, who ordered custom suits from his Roman tailor….and the rugged dressed-down style of Steve McQueen…and the New York City grit of Al Pacino. From the casual cool of Marlon Brando and James Dean, to the sex appeal of Richard Gere in American Gigolo and the power of Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street,” who are men looking to for inspiration today?

Are there any icons out there?

If you find them, will you let me know?

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Brando, Dean, McQueen

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

Pacino, Gere, Douglas

This brings me full circle to my affinity for menswear, and fuels my purpose to bring inspiring pieces to Louis today. I travel the world with what I just shared with you in mind, and remain determined to help men find a way to pack their jeans away. It just has to happen! I make it my mission to help men who shop here find their own contemporary, relevant sense of style – where clothes are tailored correctly to fit closer to the body without looking awkward, and where urban and athletic style come together with PANTS, refined hoodies, gorgeous fabric, gorgeous blazers and sophisticated sneakers that will blow them all away…

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Long Journey jacket, Mathias pant, Greg Lauren plaid shirt, Public School sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Tim Coppens jacket, Ami shirt, Valentini pant, Tim Coppens / Common Projects sneaker

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Belvest Jacket, Malo hoodie, Haider Ackermann tee, Tim Coppens pant, Belvest scarf

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

Long Journey jacket, Melinda Gloss shirt, Massimo Bizzocchi tie, Haider Ackermann pant, Public School shoe

I’ll leave you with this…

I remember once, when I was young and single (oh yes I was!) and living in a Townhouse outside of Boston, an acquaintance asked if they could set me up on a “blind date.” Never one to turn away from trying something new, I agreed and waited, and wondered who would arrive at my door.

After several days of anticipation, the date was upon me. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and walking to the door with the anxious/excited feeling one (hopefully) gets just before a blind date and swung open the door.

To my excitement, the man who stood before me surprisingly very handsome, and I felt a wave of relief take over…until my eyes left his face and found their way to what he was wearing, and before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I said, “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong address…I’m waiting for my blind date!”

He didn’t get it. Do you?