Brooks Brothers Discontinuing Black Fleece Collection


Photo

The men’s wear designer Thom Browne.

Credit
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Devotees of Black Fleece, Thom Browne’s collection for Brooks Brothers, should hurry to stores to stock up. Claudio Del Vecchio, the Brooks Brothers chief executive, confirmed in a phone interview on Thursday that the Black Fleece line will be discontinued following the fall 2015 season, though he did not rule out the option of reviving it, potentially without Mr. Browne, in the future.

The collection was introduced in 2007 and was intended as a three-year project. But positive reviews and encouraging sales prompted executives to extend its life. “It lasted so long because it was a very good relationship,” Mr. Del Vecchio said. “I’m sure Thom would agree with that. I believe we’re closing this on a high end. The fall collection is probably the best collection we ever had in Black Fleece.”

Mr. Browne, who cited his own growing business as the reason for the mutual decision to disband Black Fleece, added, “I think it’s always going to be something that’s fondly thought about, whether or not it comes back.”

Photo

Claudio Del Vecchio, the Brooks Brothers chief executive.

Credit
Andrew Toth/Getty Images for American Image Awards

Black Fleece, which is sold at Brooks Brothers stores as well as at stand-alone shops in New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong, brought Mr. Browne’s famously constricted suiting, with its abbreviated proportions and modish look, to Brooks Brothers, whose main lines skew more traditional. (The initial connection between Mr. Browne and the company was suggested by the Vogue editor Anna Wintour.)

“I don’t think people ever saw the collection as being inappropriate or irresponsible to live within the world of Brooks Brothers,” Mr. Browne said. “I think that’s what we’re all most proud of.”

Initially meant more as a marketing move than a significant business, the collection, Mr. Del Vecchio said, was ultimately a success even though it was niche, with annual sales “north of $10 million,” and especially strong sales in the United States and Japan.

Yet, he said, “given the times and the challenge that we have in the market right now, we wanted to concentrate on something that at this point has more of a long-term effect on the core business.”

Black Fleece may be dispatched for now, but its lessons have been absorbed. Customers responded to its slimmer fits, and Brooks Brothers introduced slimmer cuts elsewhere, including in the lower-priced Red Fleece line, which it introduced in 2013.

Of keen interest to the company was the success of the Black Fleece women’s wear, which was introduced even before Mr. Browne began designing women’s collections for his own label. Thirty-five percent of Black Fleece sales are women’s wear, versus 20 percent in the main Brooks Brothers collection. “That gave us a lot of confidence that we have a bigger potential in our regular collection,” Mr. Del Vecchio said.

To that end, the company hired Zac Posen as its new creative director of women’s wear. Mr. Posen’s first collection will be shown during New York Fashion Week in September (a new step for the brand) and arrive in stores in January. Mr. Del Vecchio declined to provide details about Mr. Posen’s collection, other than to say, “I’m certainly very happy with it.”



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