Brooks Brothers Files for Bankruptcy

Rachel Tashjian

Brooks Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday morning, joining the running list of retailers that have stumbled amid the coronavirus pandemic. It had already made the decision to close 51 of its more than 200 stores in early April, but is moving ahead with plans to reopen its remaining stores as America undergoes a rocky emergence from the pandemic-mandated shutdown.

The filing follows news, first reported in late April, that the century-old menswear retailer, which was once a go-to for postgraduates with Wall Street dreams, and suit-clad career men with Wall Street realities, and grandfathers everywhere, was seeking a buyer. Since 2002, it has been owned by Claudio Del Vecchio, the son of the founder of the Italian eyewear company Luxottica. The younger del Vecchio also serves as Brooks’s CEO.

The company blames the store closures on the pandemic, which buckled its ability to pay rent, but Brooks’ struggles predate COVID-19. It had begun the sale process last year. As business dress standards relaxed—Goldman Sachs even pivoted to a casual dress code in March 2019—the “business casual” uniform became less codified, and suits more expressive. Aesthetically, young American men have pivoted to streetwear labels like Supreme and Palace for the off-duty wardrobe that was once dominated by preppy basics, while brands that mix nouveau prep codes and streetwear shapes, like Aimee Leon Dore, Noah, and John Elliott, have usurped the mental space that was once reserved for J. Crew and Brooks’ office-appropriate basics. Bonobos and Lululemon have also been business competitors, CNBC notes. (G’bye chinos, hello Meggings!)

Earlier this year, Brooks Brothers had pivoted to making masks, producing up to 150,000 per day—a feat it was able to accomplish because of its network of domestic factories in Massachusetts, New York, and North Caroline. It will close those factories by mid-August.

Brooks had hoped to find a buyer before filing for bankruptcy, though interest remains high. One of the leading names in the running is Authentic Brands, which memorably scooped up Barneys New York last summer after a tete-a-tete with trade show and retail impresario Sam Ben-Avraham, who launched a #savebarneys campaign. Will a basic-loving backer with an affinity for American prep prestige step in to mount a similar effort? The coming days, when Brooks will release more details on the sale process, may tell.

And even if they’re dubious about its prospects as a company, bankers remain attached to Brooks’ products—even if they are unwilling to admit as much publicly: “One senior banker who spoke to CNBC said he still wears the brand’s basics under his more expensive suits,” CNBC wrote on Wednesday morning. “He requested anonymity because he did not want to talk publicly about his basic wear.”

Originally Appeared on GQ

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