I’ve been in New York City on business for the past few days and am happy to report that it’s still the cool, hectic, stylish and compelling city I love. In addition to my meetings, NYC was hosting the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. That means, apart from the backroom dealings, geopolitical machinations, and earnest, lengthy speeches – the traffic was awful.
Still, I got a chance to walk around a bit and visited some favorite parts of town. Quite accidentally, I also discovered where Alan Flusser’s Custom Shop is located; 3 East 48th Street, on the fourth floor. With more than twenty years of experience in refining the art of men’s classic style and tailoring, he sits at the top of my list when it comes to possible, “some day” interviews.
I also stopped by Brooks Brothers’ flagship store on Madison Avenue to check out the new Black Fleece line. Thom Browne’s joint venture with Brooks has been both lauded and questioned. I have to say though, at least up there on the third floor with a huge plasma screen showing runway clips, the slightly industrial showroom style sample racks, and an overall hipper version of the BB clubby feel, I was pretty impressed.
Black Fleece by Thom Browne (Men’s Vogue)
I ran into two Japanese gents trying on Black Fleece oxford shirts and asked them for an opinion on fit; ” definitely a slimmer fit,” came the reply. But they both seemed pretty impressed; so was I. The samples on display, turned inside-out, highlighted exceptional tailoring and the fabrics were alternately butter soft or weighty and dense – each appropriate to the piece.
The overall feel of the collection is a merger between the pared down monochromatic aesthetic of 1950s America and the restrained yet stylized European body conscious look of today. It’s not your dad’s Brooks Brothers, but it’s also not an abandonment of classic style; not at all in fact. It’s just a different twist.
Some things however, like the dove gray morning coat tricked out with white trim, a la boating jacket, are wholly decorative and practically nonfunctional in the real world (at least mine). Browne’s trademark “shrunken suits” have been elongated to the realistic proportions of actual men who don’t work the runways for a living. Overall, a fresh breath of air for a classic label. Nice job Thom.
Lastly, as I’m always on the lookout for interesting men’s bags, I wanted to wanted to give a quick field report on one of my favorite brands, Jack Spade. I saw several versions out on the street, but the one that made me feel good about my recommending Jack Spade bags for the workday was on the 36th floor of Merrill Lynch’s headquarters.
In a room filled with very sharp pinstripe suited equity analysts, one guy pulled out his Jack Spade field bag and told me he’s had it long enough to wear a small but growing hole in the corner. When he needs to, he said, he’s getting another one. And you know what? It looked darn good slung over the shoulder of a navy chalk stripe suit and Gucci loafers.