So it’s no surprise that the more casual offering is taking center stage in the company’s spring 2023 collection. Creative director Michael Bastian didn’t overlook the brand’s heritage in tailoring, but he paired the looks with sportswear to create modern alternatives that are more casual but still sophisticated.
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That translated into color-blocked nautical sweaters worn under a seersucker suit and softly constructed blazers with drawstring shorts and a crewneck sweater for men, and a shiny women’s raincoat with a mariner-striped lining and oversize buttons.
An ’80s Los Angeles, California, influence in a second story with pastels, palm trees and awning stripes was visible in patchwork madras sport shirts and sport coats for men, and a sleeveless women’s dress, as well as a silk and linen plaid blazer for guys.
Sport references, a hallmark of the brand, were also sprinkled throughout, and included a tennis-inspired capsule with polos, shorts and a trompe l’oeil print of a racquet on a sweater, as well as a crewneck sweater with Bastian’s interpretation of Thomas Eakins’ painting with a single rower in his skull, on the front and back.
There was a section of what Bastian called “Soft Icons,” or more casual versions of some of the brand’s signature pieces, such as the classic button-down shirt, pleated pant and trench in silk for women, and single-breasted jacket with a vest for men that he paired with jeans. There was also an American Gigolo moment with some dressier pieces, including a silver sequined top and pencil skirt for women and a tartan dinner jacket for guys.
Ken Ohashi, chief executive officer of Brooks Brothers, said Bastian’s collections have really been popular with customers. “We’re having a tremendous year,” he said. “We’re trending nicely above last year in both sales and margins. Michael’s key initiative to transform Brooks Brothers from a suit and dress shirt brand into a full lifestyle brand is working.
He said that although his initial strategy was to target Brooks’ existing customers with the sportswear options, he was surprised at how many new customers were also drawn to the brand by the more casual offering.
As a result, sportswear will now account for nearly 40 percent of the company’s total sales by the end of this year, he predicted, up from under 20 percent when ABG bought the business. “And we’re planning it to be up next year too.”
Other initiatives for 2023 include the introduction of a Made in the U.S. dress shirt program and the launch of the Explorer suit, a collection of suit separates in performance fabrics that will replace the entry-level Brooksgate model, along with the expansion of the made-to-measure program, which has gotten off to a strong start.
“There are three elements to this brand,” Ohashi said. The first is tradition and trust, the second is innovation, or staying current while looking at the future in terms of fabric and silhouette, and the third is the company’s ongoing ability to help its customers dress to celebrate life’s milestones.
By focusing on those three pillars, he said, Brooks Brothers will be well-positioned for the future.
Ohashi said the company, which operates 160 stores in the U.S., will continue to add units in “larger cities where we’re underpenetrated from a real estate perspective.” And the brick-and-mortar locations are performing well. “The store business has the highest increase to plan,” he said.
In addition to physical stores, another area for growth is Brooks’ fledgling wholesale business. The collection is carried in Nordstrom and several specialty stores such as Halls in Kansas City, Kansas, and Murray’s Toggery in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
“There are a lot of new ways to reach the customer,” he said. “We have lots and lots of opportunity.”