“Put away your work, I have arranged for you to go to Brooks Brothers and choose a new shirt for the summer.” Imagine if your boss said that to you this Friday? Would you be motivated come Monday morning?
The American brand has arrived in Toronto, and upon walking across sisal mats trimmed with khaki borders and seeing slipper chairs with crisp white cotton covers, I knew this was authentic colonial style at its best. My brother-in-law, a Brooks Brothers walking advertisement, always told me that Ralph Lauren was a poor man’s version of the Brooks Brothers brand, and once you visit the Toronto store, it is tough to look at the polo symbol the same way again.
Brooks Brothers was rescued from the bungled mis-management of Marks & Spencers by an Italian named Claudio Del Vecchio. What could an Italian add to Brooks Brothers – Gucci flash, Versace shock value? Would we see Madonna in blue seersucker now, clutching a massive silver trophy provocatively? I was curious and jumped at the chance to attend a family business evening held at the Brookes Brothers store by the Chairman and CEO. Claudio Del Vecchio demonstrated elegance you only find on the Continent, combined with Oliver & Bonacini serving up amuse-bouches all evening and the opportunity to experience the store - what a smart evening.
As Evan Thompson, representing Family Firm Institute, put it, "Brooks Brothers is an icon."
Claudio picked up this theme and spoke about understanding the essence of a brand. His early years working in his family business, creating and achieving the globalization an eye-glass empire, gave him the foundation to know how to speak to the client, but then act to bring in their requests. I could see that Claudio was humble despite his global success, and loved to know how to thrill his core clients. He respects the brand of Brooks Brothers' smell of New York Wall Street success and money, but I could sense a whole new level of style elegance, lifting it from staid to - yes - Italian elegance. When I checked out the magazine, there was a great article with photographs on how to combine shirts and ties which I showed to my teenage sons, who actually spent a few minutes discussing how to dress well. Remarkable! Now that is smart brand management and Claudio’s quest for stylish perfection is being appreciated by my family's next generation. That is a legacy brand - truly an icon.