Tag Archives: Menswear

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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Menswear 101: Intro. to Pants

Last week I wrote about fashion categories for women, and how I like to avoid them for those who shop at Louis.

This week, I want to talk about fashion categories for men, and how they’re pretty much unavoidable.

If you are a man, or shop with a man, or shop for a man…or own a clothing store that has been selling the best in menswear for decades, you’re probably already familiar with the rules of men which are: 1.) They’re always hot, 2.) They don’t want to wear anything scratchy, and 3.) They’ll only buy what’s comfortable.

You’ll also be familiar with the fact that men have fairly standard choices when it comes to fashion, and those choices fall into categories. It’s because of this, and the nature of what I do, that I embrace the predictability of those categories and find the very best in them: the best tailoring, the best fabrics, the best in comfort, and always the best in style. Especially so when it comes to pants.

Besides a very avant-garde few, every man will wake up, get out of bed, and put on a pair of pants – every day – one leg at a time. Therefore, it makes me wonder why the majority of them are so willing to follow the path of least resistance (also known as khakis) and less willing to take the time to search high and low for the pair that will ultimately make them look and feel good at the same time.

When men come into Louis to shop for pants they politely explain that they want something in a soft “cotton” that won’t wrinkle or stain. Then I laugh and ask them if they understand that finding “cotton” that won’t wrinkle or stain is like finding a unicorn running down the Esplanade. It doesn’t exist. And then I ask, “Do you really want to walk around with the most precious parts of you all wrapped up in Teflon?”

As you can imagine, after the shock of my question wears off, the answer is pretty much always “no.”

I understand that you can walk into any store and get a “pair of pants” for $75-$200, but what you won’t get is what you’ll find at Louis … hand tailored pants crafted from incredible fabric with an incomparable fit. And unlike the aforementioned, these pants will be worth every penny you invest in them.

And when a man invests in his pants this way he’ll notice that they’ll have the most spectacular fit. They won’t sag in the ass or be cut too wide in the leg, but they will have enough of a cut to allow you to sit down, or drive a car, and be comfortable.

And when a man invests in his pants this way he’ll have a better understanding about innovations in fabrication including corduroy made from cotton and cashmere, brushed or twilled printed cotton, and lightweight flannel wool. And he’ll appreciate the fact that when he comes into a store like Louis he’ll have the opportunity to see it all and have it available – in his size.

Listen, I’ve been in the business of menswear for a very long time, and I know that if men want to expand their repertoire and be prepared for every occasion they can do so by having 4 different types of pants in their wardrobe: wool tailored, cotton tailored, cotton washed, and either a jean or track pant – or some other kind of casual pant. And they should all be equally comfortable across the board.

In our response to the rules of men, I can say with confidence that the collection of pants we have curated here will 1.) Not overheat you (nothing is heavier than 250 grams), 2.) Will never feel scratchy, and 3.) Will be tailored to perfection and always feel comfortable.

Guys…I beg you, please don’t let your jeans become your excuse. Jeans are not okay for every occasion. There truly are so many more interesting options, and I promise they will be just as, if not more, comfortable than denim – and they will definitely look and feel better.

Life presents more opportunities than ever before. Put your pants on one leg at a time and walk through them effortlessly.

But don’t wrap yourself up in Teflon.

Please.

PT101 Pant, Mastai Shirt, Robert Clergerie Shoes

PT101 Pant, Mastai Shirt, Robert Clergerie Shoes

 

Valentini pant, Mastai shirt

Valentini Pant, Mastai Shirt

Tim Coppens pant, Sartoria Partenopea jacket , Common Project sneakers, Malo sweater

Tim Coppens Pant, Sartoria Partenopea Jacket , Common Projects Sneakers, Malo Sweater

Sartoria Partenopia pant

Sartoria Partenopia Pant, Robert Clergerie Shoes

“Loose Luxury” – Fall 14 – @Louis_Boston

For the first time since I’ve been in this business, I find that the evolution of fashion has moved us into a moment of androgynous, and/or ambisexual dressing. I suppose you could say punk and deconstruction flirted with the notion, but today any distinctly feminine element you may have found there have all but been omitted.

It’s no secret that I’ve been attracted for some time now to the casual, luxury, athletic inspired designs that line the racks at Louis, and as we move into fall, that tone continues to evolve. A lot of the new pieces arriving here hold on to those sensibilities, but increasingly they are embracing androgynous qualities that effortlessly accompany them. And it’s been interesting to observe our customers as they approach the new season because I’m finding the pieces I have bought, whether cut for men or women, show very little difference in the nuance of the design, yet they are being very well received and appreciated by both sexes.

In particular, pieces from Baha East and Greg Lauren.

Baja East, the recently launched brainchild of Scott Studenberg and John Targon is a new line to Louis. Studenberg and Targon met while working on the wholesale side of the businesss for Lanvin, and Celine and Burberry respectively, and come to us in Boston with what is only their second collection.

Creating clothing that “everyone wants to wear all of the time,” the pair has coined their look “loose luxury” and produce pieces that are easy and casual, but finished in luxurious fabrics.

From their sleeveless hoodie made out of the softest glove leather you will ever lay your hands on, to another made from luxurious pony hair – I saw the collection in their showroom in New York, and I knew you had to have it.

Greg Lauren, Ralph’s nephew, has also created quite a buzz at Louis with his incredible distressed pieces. Since 2011 he has been finding vintage army duffle bags and tents at flea markets and vintage dealers, and manipulating them to create collections full of astonishing contradictions. The pieces for men and women differentiate a bit, but I didn’t buy that way for the season. Instead I bought similar pieces for everyone. His cashmere patchwork coats look and feel like nothing you’ve ever seen before and his exquisite, yet casual pants have sold out for women and soon will for men.

And while I would like to say the success of both lines at Louis should be attributed to my good taste, that’s honestly not the case. It’s truly just the confluences of things that are going on right now. With no other real way to describe it, pieces from both designers are just very “now,” and that kind of says it all.

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Make no mistake about it, the mainstream industry at large doesn’t quite know how to describe it either, but they are determined. True to form, the fashion rags (magazines and trade publications) want so badly to talk about this new incarnation of luxury, but they first need to categorize it and make it accessible to everyone by lining it up nicely along side of the “athletic” inspired brands of the moment (think LuLu). And while one could argue that there are shared components as things relate to comfort, the Common Project sneakers and the elements of Baja East and Greg Lauren are truly in a category unto themselves, yet there is nothing categorical about any of it.

Not to mention the fact that each and every garment produced is made purposefully, by hand, one at a time. And you won’t know what that means in terms of unique look and delicious feel if you are shopping from your computer. You simply have to try it on. The garments are made to drape differently on every body. You really have to throw out your ideas about traditional sizing because some prefer these pieces more fitted, and others with a little more room. Either way they look fabulous but they have to be tried on.

And this is what I’m referring to when I speak about the evolution and movement in fashion. Your jeans are an option, but now they are only that…an option. If you embrace new ideas and are open to evolving the way you think about clothing it’s inevitable that you’ll find pieces that may not replace your favorite jeans, but they will certainly make you think twice before automatically reaching for them. You have options now – Incredible, luxurious, forward thinking, innovative, versatile, striking options.

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Nothing thrills me more than when a customer comes to Louis, sees what we have to offer them, and understands the philosophy behind it. They get it.

Just last week a woman came in and grabbed a pair of Greg Lauren pants that were washed and dyed to give them a very unique look and texture. She put them on her body and her face lit up. Before we had a chance to explain anything to her she was explaining to us how she would wear them with heels or sneakers, and dress them up or down as the occasion dictated. When she said she thought they would look great if she wore them under a silk slip for an evening out I couldn’t hold back my smile. She had to have those pants. She got it.

These pieces that embrace “loose luxury” represent a new way of dressing and a new generation. The designers are really putting their stamp on things and owning something fresh that is also holding steadfastly on to luxury and elegance.

When you come to Louis I want you to discover incredible pieces and understand that you can use them in ways you never would have considered before.

I want you to invest in a wardrobe you actually want to wear…

And I promise you will.

 

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Baja East

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren

Greg Lauren shirt, Belvest jacket, Haider Ackermann pants

Greg Lauren shirt, Belvest jacket, Haider Ackermann pants

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Discover Kiton, Cashmere for Fall. Luxury Like No Other.

I would hope this goes without saying, but it’s important that you understand I’m not just out here preaching about EXPERIENCE and APPRECIATION. I live it.

I want you to know that I don’t buy for Louis, and ultimately for you, from my computer. Doing so would be insulting to all of us, including the artists/designers who work tirelessly to craft impeccable garments that must be seen and touched to be appreciated. In my every effort to keep Louis looking and feeling like Louis, and make sure it never morphs into a “trendy” department store, I step out from behind my own computer and travel the world so I can ensure that the pieces I intentionally bring back to Boston are like nothing you’ve seen or touched before.

With that said…

While we’ve all been enjoying the sights and sounds and smells of the summer we never thought would begin, I find myself looking forward to seeing the leaves change color and feeling the slight chill that Autumn brings to Boston every September. New items for the season have finally started to make their way to the store, and while I am excited by every piece that comes in, none excite me quite like the menswear that has arrived from Kiton – especially their cashmere.

If you live in Boston, you simply have to have a different kind of appreciation for cashmere. We all need outerwear that’s deliciously warm, and while a puffy down parka will suffice, albeit awkwardly over a suit, it will never look and feel as luxurious as cashmere. In menswear, most outerwear cloth is purposely created to be an in-between weight that translates just fine in other parts of the world, but it just doesn’t work here in New England. Do you remember last winter?

When you visit Louis you will see cashmere from Kiton you likely won’t see anywhere else. From luxurious overcoats crafted from 600 grahams of blanket soft and incredibly warm cashmere, to lightweight cashmere jackets that look wintery, but feel comfortably cool. Offered in rich palettes that include beautiful browns, bright blues, and interesting olives, it’s immediately apparent that the man who shops here simply isn’t interested in adding another navy blazer to his wardrobe. The man who shops here is looking for depth and dimension, and Kiton delivers.

Not only will you see things here that you likely won’t see elsewhere, the shopping experience at Louis is also quite different. While other stores only offer “try on” pieces in navy or gray, along with fabric swatches to confuse you and make you wonder what your garment will actually look like once your order comes in, we want to do better. And we do so by investing where others won’t.

The bottom line is, when I visit the Kiton showroom I like to take some risks. Risks that other stores won’t take because having pieces handmade in interesting (and expensive) fabrics to carry in inventory is just not within their comfort level. Perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in their buyers, or perhaps they don’t have enough confidence in you. So in the end, they put the risk on you – with a navy “try on” and a 6-inch swatch.

Me? I’m I more than willing to take that “risk” because I have confidence in Kiton, I have confidence in my experience as a buyer after all of these years, and I have confidence in you.

Kiton has a taste level that’s unparalleled in the industry. They are the best at what they do, and I have no problem investing in the best.

Once you come in to DISCOVER and APPRECIATE the Kiton tradition of luxury, you won’t be able to live without it either.

Trust me. Try it on.

 

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Father’s Day Comes Once a Year. Don’t Blow It.

It’s no secret that we all love our fathers, but to be quite honest with you, Father’s Day has gotten downright predictable and boring…and for a guy who is so great, don’t you think he deserves something a little more exciting than a tie?

You only need a minute to browse the Hallmark isle to realize that unless your father is golf-playing or lawn-mowing, you’re out of luck in the card department, and if you default to buying him a department store discounted tie, he’s the one who’s going to be out of luck.
So this Sunday, for Father’s Day, why not do him a significant favor, and instead of telling him you love him with a predictably boring Father’s Day gift, show him you love him by updating his look.

Isn’t it time?

Young or old, your dad deserves to have a sense of pride in how he dresses, and if you have to show him what style is these days, there’s really no better time then on Father’s Day, when you hopefully have his somewhat, undivided attention.

We also understand that breaking tradition might lead to a look of confusion on your father’s face as he wonders, “Where the hell is my tie?” but when he sees what’s in the box, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll instantly become his favorite child.

We just know.

Can you picture him now…in a pair of slim fitted PT01 (Pantaloni Torino) pants, with a perfectly tailored Kiton shirt and a pair of Common Projects sneakers? We can.

And if you must get a tie, please, pick out something with some color. Pick out something he would never pick out for himself, and let him know that as far as father’s go, he should stand out in the crowd, as he’s always done in your eyes.

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For Men…Again. The Workshop @Louis_Boston

Others may try, but none measure up.

Come see for yourself.

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

It’s okay to ask for help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, come see for yourself.

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Louis Collaborative 2014 email

 

Jil at Jil

Will It Be The Real Jil?

Twenty five years ago we started carrying a line from Hamburg Germany called Jil Sander. It was perfect for Louis, incredibly well made, modern researched fabrics, minimalist styling and a price tag that matched all this luxury. At the end of the 90’s Jil descided to sell 75% of her company to Prada because “she wanted to improve on the breathe of her handbag-shoe business” . She was promised by Prada’s chief executive officer that the business would remain the same. Well it didn’t stay the same. The first thing that Prada demanded was that all of the clothing would be made in the Prada factories. There went the quality that Jil was known for, and the fabric research was cut in half, there went the modern take on clothing. Jil couldn’t work under those conditions, and feeling duped, she left. There went the design. We dropped the line as soon as Jil made the announcement. (how could it ever be the same value?)

After that, Prada worked hard to try and restore the value to the company which was of course, impossible. After a few tries they brought in a menswear designer named Raf Simons.

He Had Never Design for Womenswear

Raf had never designed for womenswear. (Somehow they thought it was a good bet). A few seasons later they sold the company to an English investment company who quickly announced that they were going to sell the company as soon as they made it profitable again (like that could happen). Raf’s first attempts at a collection were actually better than I thought they would be and each season you could see he was learning and growing, but the company still struggled . A few years later a Japanese/Italian company bought the company and continued to support Raf and you could see improvements with the collections and sales (the quality still could not match the standards of the original Jil Sander).

Last year around this time John Galliano was fired from the Dior house for racial slurs during a night of drinking in Paris (one of many nights). It was announced the Raf was a consideration for the job. Well now…. here is the fashion world in a nutshell. Gibo, (the Japanese/Italian company) who had been investing money (while losing it) in Jil Sander (a company abandoned by it’s designer) watched it’s designer publicly announce that he was interviewing for a job in a company that was trying to rebuild their brand that was abdondoned by yet another designer. (I know that was a run on sentence) So Gibo fired him.

The fashion world is in a tizzy…They are mad at Gibo for firing Raf (who, by the way, miraculously popped out the most beautiful collection for his last season). They are thrilled that Jil is returning, and they are expecting the company to return to it’s original splendor. Well guess what….in won’t. I was asked to start showcasing Jil again in the store. I thought long and hard about it and I refused. There were two reasons. First, Jil is now sold at many stores not just the controlled specialty stores that she insisted on originally . Second, Jil’s control on quality will be minimal. She will not have the control over the factories like she did before, and her obsessive control over details will be cost prohibitive. I’m sure she will push the envelope of the company owners, but the price of her pants in 1998 are still considered outrageous at $1200 (and that quality can not be replicated for the same price).

The musical chairs of designers that is going on with these fashions houses are going to catch up with their customers and eventually their sales. Branding IS important, I know that, but product integrity is also important. Is the consumer so gullible that it will eat anything companies throw at them? One change can be understood, but when the consumer needs a road map to understand how far away from the original concept the company has gone, the consumer will abandon the product. Success in a label is usually a combination of design, make and fit. When these elements are rearranged or eliminated the BRAND can’t stand on it’s own…look at the GAP. I wish Jil well and I will be watching carefully to see if I did underestimate the situation. But I thought I would give you, the reader, insight into how decisions are made. I will be the first to admit my mistakes, but I have to have some guidelines to give my store the integrity that I demand from my vendors.