How do you reposition a brand that’s already successful in your home market for customers across the ocean? Take a page from the playbook of British apparel and accessories retailer Smart Turnout.
OTC has long been an admirer of this creative and authentically English brand. Originally built around jumpers (sweaters to us Americans) executed in British regimental colors, The Smart Turnout brand moved on to outstanding enameled cuff links and regimental ties.
Initially, the company continued with the regimental themes but branched out a bit and produced some American Ivy League inspired ties and cuff links. Throw in some very popular nylon canvas watchstraps and Smart Turnout was on a roll.
But rolling where? The brand was expanding at a very healthy pace in its home market but founder Philip Turner had bigger ideas and wanted to capture the American Market as well. How do you re-brand a distinctly British company for American consumption while offering primarily British/inspired products?
The approach? Reestablish Smart Turnout as a sleeker “city” brand without totally abandoning its “country lifestyle” roots. Build up the brand’s storyline by creating an overall brand narrative woven throughout the paper catalog and recently relaunched website (a great one by the way).
Smart Turnout’s new look The result? Increased sales, better name and brand recognition and deeper American market penetration. This strategy also helped to build stronger association with Smart Turnout’s British heritage via the new “London” tag line in its name that, paradoxically, helps to establish brand value and exclusivity here in the States.
Overall, a great job of holding on to the core values, quality and uniqueness that made the brand initially successful while thoroughly modernizing everything about it. I think the best compliment is one noted by an OTC reader who told me that he could tell the whole brand had been refreshed and rebuilt, but he could not really pinpoint what was different – it just looked better.
Down in Augusta, Georgia, the Master’s golf tournament just got underway. While it’s one of the world’s leading venues for any golfer, this year it’s all about Tiger Woods.
I’ll bypass the obvious storyline here because I want to point out something else: what Tiger’s wearing and why. To the surprise of many, Nike, a keystone sponsor that stuck with the embattled golfer, scripts its athlete’s wardrobes.
While the practice of a sponsor dictating athlete’s uniforms is standard in team sports like football, soccer and baseball, golf is a purely individual sport. Sure, apparel brands like Nike, Callaway and Ping all sponsor players, but who knew that for Trevor Immelman Saturday is lyon blue body mapping graphic polo day?
No surprise that Nike has this down to a color coordinating science.
About a week ago, Nike sent me a detailed wardrobe schematic, complete with product SKUs, outlining in detail what each of Nike’s 11 sponsored athletes will be wearing every day of the tourny. There is a certain amount of leeway when it comes to mixing and matching pieces. But for the most part, the golfers are locked in by contract to wear the desired combo – or at least choose only from an approved apparel grouping.
For example, I knew with a high degree of confidence that today Tiger would be wearing a dark grey DRI-Fit open stripe polo (style# 359363-021), black pants and a black hat. As it turns out, he appears to be sporting tomorrow’s white hat and Saturday’s lilac frost textured strip polo (#359361-505).
Well, without a doubt a Spring here in the nation’s capitol.
The cherry trees, a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States, are blooming across the city and tourists from around the world are flooding in.
Though a little frustrating – please, please stand to the right on escalators – I love seeing how amazed visitors are when walking up to the Capitol or strolling along the White House gates. What I also like, especially after our unusually brutal winter, is that folks are breaking out the Spring wardrobe.
Two items of note on this front; (1) The Preppy Handbook, the tongue-in-cheek arbiter of all things Ivy League, is getting a Part II, and (2) if you like ties, you need to check out a small company from Raleigh, NC, called Lumina.
First, The Book. The New York Times this past Sunday reported – on the front page no less – that Lisa Birnbach is penning a follow-up to the seminal “The Official Preppy Handbook” currently titled “True Prep.” For the pink and green cognoscenti, this is huge; a second coming of sorts.
Though intended to be a parody of the WASPy, gin soaked, boat shoe wearing, blue blazer sporting, East Coast lock-jawed social snobs inhabiting the finest prep schools and ivy covered walls of higher learning, it instead became the bible of how to become one.
Great piece from back in the day (thanks to UnabashedlyPrep.com) The current wave of preppy resurgence has some serious staying power and is still riding high. And this generation of preps has been pining for its own social guidebook on par with the classic TOPH.
As Scott “The Sartorialist” Schuman mentioned to me once, although Americans like to try on other styles – English country and city looks, Italian sprezzatura, French minimal cool – East Coast prep is ours and ours alone. No one does it better and we should be proud of that.
The other preppy classic: Take Ivy Outside the U.S., preppy/East Coast/Ivy League/American Trad, call it what you will, is the defining style of America. Japan may be the most obsessed when it comes to getting the precise look down pat, but what makes American preppy so enduring is its imperfection and evolutionary nature.
TOPH made my family cool – and I sure can’t argue with that. So, be on the lookout for more updates on this genuinely exciting news. With any luck, you’ll get to see a sneak peek right here, before it hits the shelves.
Now, on to some preppy wares that you can put to use right now.
Today, I am sporting a bow from the Lumina Clothing Company – a small shop run out of Raleigh, North Carolina. Named after the nearby town of Lumina and founded by a group of tie-loving friends, they make outstanding and unique ties. As I write this, I am wearing the Something Traditional bow tie (as you can see below). Now, I do like bow ties but don’t often wear them. It takes some guts and I have to be in the right mood – but after tying on this one I think I’ll be in the mood more often. The construction is outstanding, I love the bright, refreshing design and even the hook and roller hardware is impressive. In disclosure, they sent me this tie as no cost; but for $39.00, it’s a darn good deal.
The Something Traditional bow tie Please take a moment and stop by their site, check out their other bow and neck ties and learn more about this great little company. OTC is always on the lookout for smaller and start-up companies that have a great story and great products – this one has both.
Late last year Kyle Vucko, one of the co-founders of the online custom tailor Indochino, contacted Off The Cuff about reviewing one of their suits. I had heard of the company and read about their innovative business model in the Wall Street Journal. I had also read some other reviews, all of which generally have a positive bent.
After chatting at length with Kyle about the ordering process, reimbursement of follow-up tailoring expenses and their total satisfaction guarantee, I agreed to give it a try.
Indochino donated the suit to OTC, so it cost me nothing; however there still aren’t too many places where you get a custom suit for around $400 dollars in less than a week. I chose a navy two-button, notched lapel, single breasted suit with double vents. I also added pick stitching, surgeon cuffs and purple lining.
The suit, yes. Me, no. The online ordering process is very easy, though it takes longer than you might think to actually take all the measurements – and you definitely need someone to take them for you. In my case it was a very patient wife. If you need help along the way, each step has a short video to walk you through the process. Once you are done, your online profile can be used to speed you through future orders.
The suit arrived very quickly, in less than one week. Given that it was made in Shanghai, that’s pretty impressive. I suspected that the likelihood of it fitting perfectly right out of the box was slim, and it turns out I was correct. The collar was way off – the result of a tight fit across the shoulder blades – and the pants’ waist too big. I took some pictures and e-mailed them off to the company. After a quick consult with the Indochino tailors a new suit was cut and whisked off to me. The new one is pretty much perfect and I wear is regularly.
Though I have not yet ordered another suit, I can always keep my measurements and preferences up to date in the online profile. While I look forward to the day that I can go to OTC contributor Jon Green for a bespoke suit, I am happy to say that my Indochino suit is very comfortable and regularly garners some darn good compliments.
You should note that their basic cut is clearly modern: shorter jacket, trimmer fit, 18-inch leg openings, narrower lapel. That said, you can alter and tweak pretty much anything to your preference. I am not a 20-something – not even a 30-something anymore; and that is their target demographic. So, I took some time and modified the suit to fit my frame and desired look, and it works on me. Without a doubt, I will be adding to my Indochino wardrobe.
Indochino is not competing with Savile Row or even the Ralph Lauren’s of the wardrobing world. For some, these are clearly “starter” suits or fashion suits for the post college crowd. I take a different Instead approach – I think Indochino can make suits cool again for men who like clothes. My suit looks current, yes; but by no means is it overly modern. It is well made and will last for many years in both style and construction. More importantly, I can easily choose, customize and purchase a new suit in a very short amount of time at a very economical price. As a result, to me, my suits are no longer only for important meetings or getting dressed up. They can be a more integral part of my wardrobe.
I can order a couple of casually designed suits as well as several formal models for a relatively modest investment. I can make the suit part of my own signature; with or without a tie, cap toe dressy or Todd’s moccasin casual. Indochino opens up interesting new possibilities for men; possibilities that did not previously exist at this price point.
By no means will I abandon my local custom tailor, VM Clothiers; I see them as two very different resources. And Jon Green can sleep easy – he won’t lose any clients. But a new door is being wedged open and the Indochino team rightly sees a lot of potential upside.
Wall Street Collection Having a love of clothing and classic style should never preclude you from going online to track down new options and new resources. Whether it be Rugby.com to design your own custom rugby shirt or Indochino and a new suit from their very sharp and recently launched Wall Street Collection.
Below is a brand new video from Indochino showing how they make their suits – from the initial online order to the finished product heading off to the office. It’s very well done – take a look. By the way, the gentlemen you are about to see are not actors, they are Indochino’s master tailors, and yes, they really do dress that way every day. You can also find the video on their You Tube channel HERE.
The crew from Monocle, one of OTC’s favorite global culture magazines, has joined forces with J. Crew, one of OTC’s favorite menswear labels.
In the latest issue of J. Crew’s catalog, Monocle’s editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé and several of his editors and staff are seen in Monocle’s London offices, styled through the eyes of J. Crew.
It seems that Brûlé and J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler have know each other for years, so the collaboration – and Monocle is the master of pitch-perfect collaborations – is, well perfect. The outfits chosen by J.Crew’s sylists seem to fit each man just so, highlighting, or least alluding to, some defining aspect of their personality.
Though J. Crew has done several of these “real people” mash-ups, this one is particularly inspired because Monocle represents two key elements that fit well in J. Crew’s world – and visa versa. Monocle endorses the benefits of creative societal impact, something J.Crew has pioneered with its increasing emphasis on the “craft” aspects of it’s Men’s offerings. And the magazine also champions the importance of unique, independent brands, again, something that J.Crew has successfully married to it’s own giant corporate brand.
Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé Check out the Monocle/J.Crew collaboration HERE. And always make sure to visit Monocle’s exceptional website and its daily Monocolumn. If you are an iPhone devotee like me (or Blackberry, one of Monocle’s collaborators), I also heartily endorse the Monocle weekly podcast.