An entrepreneur credited with introducing the ready-to-wear suit to the American market, Mr. Brooks also laid the groundwork for innovations — sack suits, navy blazers, reverse-striped rep ties, button-down shirts, patchwork madras, seersucker suits — now so familiar we tend to forget they were ever new. “He was a disrupter and influencer,” Mr. Del Vecchio said of Mr. Brooks. “And we’re ready to start the disruption again.”
If it is unclear what exactly that might mean in a retail landscape increasingly dominated by e-commerce and stealth product drops, Mr. Del Vecchio seemed unconcerned. Repeating a phrase that has become his mantra when discussing Brooks Brothers, he said: “We’re not good because we’re old, we’re old because we’re good.”
That he has the resources to back up his goal of readying Brooks Brothers for another 100 years was made clear in the lavish celebrations laid on for the anniversary.
They began with a fashion show presented within the vast and deliriously gilded Salone dei Cinquecento of the city’s town hall, parts of which date to the 13th century. As a full orchestra played “Empire State of Mind,” 600 guests seated on ballroom chairs watched 53 male and eight female models parade past in clothes that were the stylist Andrea Mazzanti’s fairly reverent take on traditional Brooks Brothers codes.
“I cannot change the fundamentals,” Mr. Mazzanti said, of suits and sports clothes that cautiously updated familiar staples by shrinking their Cheever-esque sack proportions to accommodate a generation of presumably skinny millennials (and that pointedly avoided anything as outré as the stuff Thom Browne produced when he briefly designed for the brand.) “I can only give a few new ideas,” added Mr. Mazzanti, who formerly designed for Italian luxury labels like Loro Piana and Aspesi.
Resembling less a brand reset than a victory lap on home turf for the 61-year-old Mr. Del Vecchio, the event was an unabashedly lavish statement by a man who long labored under the shadow of his father, a self-made billionaire raised in an orphanage.
And it was the sort of event impossible to duplicate in any other locale. When the fashion show ended, the 150 guests lucky enough to have been invited to join in a celebratory dinner filed past enormous doors and through a series of hallways arrayed with Renaissance treasures.
Eventually they found themselves in the Hall of the Lilies where, with a string quartet playing, they dined on sous-vide lobster in a warm bean soup, gnocchi with truffles and roasted branzino against a backdrop of frescoes by the Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio depicting the lives of notable Romans.
Though a less New World evening it would have been hard to conjure, there was one small culinary nod to Brooks Brothers’ origins in what was then a relatively young democracy. Dessert was apple pie.