In April of 1818, Henry Sands Brooks opened what would be the first iteration of the Brooks Brothers retail store. Brooks was driven by the following mantra: “To make and deal only in merchandise of the finest body, to sell it at a fair profit, and to deal with people who seek and appreciate such merchandise.” Over the years, the company would go on to introduce a slew of clothing firsts during its history as a retail leader. Traditional mainstays like the button-down shirt, sack suit, madras (brought over from India), and the shetland sweater all had their American beginnings at Brooks Brothers.
It was this penchant for innovation and moving the needle that caused CEO, Claudio del Vecchio, to make a bold decision. In 2007, del Vecchio announced the unveiling of a brand new high-end collection of men’s and women’s wear named Black Fleece. The idea was simple: explore a fashion-forward perspective on the classic American style Brooks Brothers had become known for. The bigger surprise? The storied retailer would partner with a burgeoning American designer, New York-based menswear designer Thom Browne.
By this time, Browne had been named CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Menswear Designer of the Year in 2006 and was on his way to becoming GQ’s Designer of the Year in 2008. His distinctive structure and fit of his clothing — cropped suiting, narrow lapels, trousers without belt loops — was exactly what del Vecchio felt Brooks Brothers needed, saying of the designer: “Thom Browne’s brilliant eye, his ability to foreshadow the market and offer a special look will bring a new dimension to Brooks Brothers.” High praise, indeed, and Browne would certainly deliver.
Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers, as the line came to be called, appeared exclusively in 30 Brooks Brothers stores worldwide. The line was so successful that Browne and Brooks Brothers decided to continue their collaboration for another 3 years. Moreover, the retailer also opened a store dedicated to Black Fleece in NYC’s West Village.