For many years a traditional men's clothier, today Brooks Brothers has a differentiated collection of men's, women's and kid's wear, with different lines ideal for people with different approaches to style, from classical to trendy. We had the opportunity of speaking to the CEO of Brooks Brothers Italy, Luca Gastaldi, at their offices in Milan.
How would you describe the DNA of Brooks Brothers?
"To put it in two words, the Brooksy attitude! A unique, authentically American blend of tradition, innovation and style. The brand has always been associated with timeless good taste, but it has also forged new paths in style; it continues to express a distinctive lifestyle. The brand has a historical mission statement: 'To make and deal only in merchandise of the best quality, to sell it at a fair profit only, and to deal with those who seek and are capable of appreciating such merchandise.' This is still a good summary. I would just like to add that the brand is constantly engaged in differentiating its products in order to improve its competitive edge."
How do you utilize your historical heritage in markets such as Italy and EMEA?
"From the very start, the Brooks Brothers – founder Henry Sands Brooks, and his sons Elisha, Daniel and John – were pioneers, the inventors of American ready-to-wear. They would have approved the current approach in which the American heritage is enriched by the finest European trends. Brooks Brothers has a lot of heritage to work with: for example, button-down collars, that John Brooks saw during a polo match in England, and later introduced into production in New York; Signature Tartan, deriving from the tartan of Henry's wife Lavinia Lyon, from Glenlyon in Scotland; the iconic Repp ties, based on British army regimental ties, but with diagonal stripes running in the opposite direction so that they would be something entirely different; and Saxxon cloth, woven from wool raised by a small consortium of farmers in Australia and New Zealand, is a Brooks Brothers exclusive."
Which are the most successful products on the European market?
"Shirts represent 30% of total sales in EMEA, and these include our classic polo button-down, and the more recent Non-Iron shirts, in which the 100% cotton textile is made wrinkle-free by special natural treatments. Other popular products are our montgomeries and trench coats, Repp ties, jerseys in Merino, Saxxon and Cashmere, our blazers, and the Signature Tartan garments. Our tartan is exclusively ours, registered with the Scottish Tartan Authority. Other popular ranges are the Red Fleece collection, with younger, slim-fit styles, and Black Fleece, with looks based on late 1950s-early '60s styles."
Could you tell us about your retail developments?
"We have recently opened three important stores, in Istanbul, Rome and Madrid, in chronological order. We are working on the conquest of Europe, which – perhaps surprisingly – for us is a developing market. At present it represents just 5% of our total sales. In Italy, in addition to our four boutiques, with two in Milan, and one in Bologna and Rome, we distribute our products through 150 multi-brand stores. We are working hard in Switzerland and Germany, and also in Estonia and Sweden. In general, we want to 'go global,' and we will be expanding in Australia, South America, China, Hong Kong, India, Russia, CIS and Middle East Countries. Today, our top markets are the U.S.A. and Japan."
How important is e-commerce for you?
"E-commerce is going well, reaching 15% of total sales, and growing. Today, online purchasing is available in the U.S.A., most European and many Middle Eastern countries. Prices are aligned by means of the IP recognition system."
In your Italian boutiques, what is the proportion between Italian consumers and visiting tourists?
"Tourists from outside the EU are becoming increasingly important, thus we are dedicating even more attention to our travel retail marketing. Chinese and Russian tourists are the ones who tend to appreciate Italy and Milan the most, followed by Japanese and Brazilians, varying from city to city. Italian customers nonetheless are always very loyal to our brand, and this is true about every local Brooks Brothers customer around the world."
What are the characteristics that travellers look for in their garments?
"Timeless and distinguished elegance and style; easy care and maintenance; lasting quality; crease-proof; comfortable. These are all embodied in one of our most popular products, the Non-Iron shirt, which you can take out of your suitcase and put on without having to iron it, and which is still impeccable in the evening. This shirt won an award from Good Housekeeping magazine for precisely this reason, in 1999 and 2004. Another thing appreciated by travelers is versatility, garments that can be mixed and matched at will. For example, a pair of chinos with a Non-Iron shirt, a stylish navy blazer with golden buttons and a functional packable trench."
And what should a traveler absolutely not forget to pack?
"To feel at home wherever you are, don't forget to take one of our navy blazers, and a pair of Brooks Brothers pyjamas!"