In an age of fast fashion where heritage is more often than not the invention of the marketing department, at Brooks Brothers heritage is woven into the garments themselves literally and figuratively.
In the flagship store at Martin Place, Sydney, everything from the diagrams and placards that adorn the store walls, to the mahogany shelves and linen bust mannequins, evoke the Brooks American Establishment experience. There is even a full-sized pool table which Anderson (Ando) Zhu, Brooks’s made to measure consultant, informs us that guests are permitted to use. David and I look each other in the eye and smile. Tom just silently judges these two idiots.
On the second floor Ando curates Brooks’s premium offerings. He pauses in front of an arrangement of crew-neck sweaters, unfolds a navy specimen and welcomes us to examine the fabric; it feels firmer yet almost as soft as cashmere. “It’s made from Saxxon wool,” Ando explains. “Saxxon wool features a three dimension helical crimp which means that the yarn is flatter and lighter than merino- it’s just as warm as cashmere and softer than merino. We use it because of its fineness and firmness. Only 30 families are capable of producing it.”
The fabrics that Brooks Brothers select for their made to measure tailoring service are equally exceptional. At the bureau where he guides guests of the house through the creation of their first custom suit, Ando opens a couple of swatch books for David and Mike to peruse. Guests at Brooks Brothers are able to select from thousands of fabric options and hundred of linings from the best Italian and English mills in the world including Loro Piana from the Biella region of Italy and the legendary English mill Holland and Sherry. Flicking through VBC’s Revenge book, I catch a glance of Mike running his fingers over a Super 170 pinstripe flannel cloth. I recommend him a good dry cleaner for his pants.
“Supers refers to the fineness of the wool. The greater the super number the finer and more delicate the wool,” Ando articulates. “However what constitutes a Super fabric isn’t well regulated. A fabric with 1% Super 170 wool and 99% polyester can still technically be called a Super 180. Though you can trust that any good outfitter will use only 100% wool, the true connoisseur will always ask about the microns to determine fabric quality.”
However a good fabric is like a good woman: simply because she’s perfect doesn’t mean she’s perfect for for you. “We have a lot of young ambitious executive types demanding to look at the most expensive fabrics we have,” Ando explains. “We request, before going any further, that they sit down and explain what they need it for. If they need it for everyday use in the office, we’ll recommend something more durable like a Super 120 which can endure more frequent wear.”
Fabric quality is one thing, the most important thing is finding something which fits perfectly. Ando assures us that this is well within the capabilities of Brooks Brothers. “We complete up to 3 fittings, one before and after to ensure that the suit is a perfect fit and another if the guest of the house has lost or gained weight between fittings,” Ando explains about the Brooks Brothers made to measure service. The number of fittings is an important point of difference given that many made to measure services elsewhere only offer one. The end result is a suit that you’d be comfortable dying in (Abraham Lincoln was killed while wearing a Brooks suit) or be photographed in while attending a prohibition inspired bacchanallia at uni (Brooks assisted in the design of the garments for Baz Luhrmann’s sybaritic adaption of the Great Gatsby).
Through their commitment to excellence Brooks has acquired a well deserved reputation as the clothier par excellence for generations of men in New York, Hong Kong, and Paris. However I wonder whether Brooks’s venture into Australia is just a temporary fling or the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. Ando assures me it’s definitely the latter:
“We already have men bringing their grandsons in here and telling them that “this is the best store in the world.””
I don’t think that they’re exaggerating too much.