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Brooks Brothers Execs on Evolving with the New Menswear

Menswear is undergoing an evolution, of both style and business practices, and Brooks Brothers is prepared to evolve with it, as they have been doing for almost 200 years.

Lou Amendola, chief merchandising officer, and Steve Goldaper, EVP and CEO at Brooks Brothers, explained how the brand plans to tackle changes in the industry at Cowen and Company’s Men-at-Work Summit in New York.

For generations, menswear was based in dressing the part rather than self-expression, but now men want to change up their wardrobe. There is an increasing desire for both casual and customized style, for instance pairing a sneaker with a suit, Amendola explained.

“There’s a new generation of young people entering the marketplace that are 20 and 30 years old that want to go in, look professional, and want to wear a jacket, but they want to wear it in a new way, they want to personalize it,” Amendola said.

He added that gradually the categories in menswear will begin to dissipate, leading to the collapse of subsections like “dress shirts” and “sport shirts” into just “shirts.”

Trends are always changing, but Brooks Brothers situates itself as part of its consumer’s culture and upbringing. Over the years, the brand became a rite of passage for young men, and the company is trying to figure out how to maintain that relationship in the age of digital retailing. “Our challenge is how we educate that new consumer because they might not have had that opportunity to have their father bring them to the store,” Amendola said.

Though Brooks Brothers is prepared to deal with trends, they are encountering the new task of adjusting to the speed at which clothes have started to move. While the industry had been built on at least a three-month lead time, Amendola explained that now it is, “I saw it today and I want it today.” The new generation of consumers is used to instant gratification, which also requires a new and faster business model, pioneered by the likes of Zara and H&M. The operational executions will have to speed up at Brooks Brothers if they want to keep up with their consumers’ changing shopping habits.

Goldaper explained that whatever changes take place, they will be done with the iconic nature of the brand and its integrity in mind. “It’s going to be not what we do, it’s going to be how we do it,” he said. “That’s the mantra in our business, ‘Are we going to do it like Brooks Brothers?’”