Last week I had the opportunity to attend a two day symposium conducted around The Fashion Institute of Technology's recent museum exhibit Ivy Style. The exhibit focuses on menswear that some classify as Ivy, Preppy, or American. Creations by Brooks Brothers and J.Press decorated the mannequins handsomely, as well as clothes created more recently by Michael Bastian and Thom Browne. The symposium however dealt with a much wider range than fashion. It was a crash course in all things Ivy League, if you will.
Day one began with the director and chief curator of the FIT Museum, Valerie Steele, who spoke about the excitement and newness of menswear being highlighted in the museum. It was then passed on to Patricia Mears, who helped assist in the curation of the Ivy Style exhibit and helped write the new Ivy book about the exhibit. The day continued with Daniel Cappello, who wrote and put The Ivy League book together. He discussed each Ivy League school's contribution to style at the time, and the aesthetic of each. Jokingly throwing in, "A man wearing suede shoes is always a sign of dodginess." Dr. Peter McNeil then spoke about The Duke of Windsor as an icon and his creation of the soft look. Bruce Boyer, former fashion editor at both GQ and Esquire, spoke about Jazz and Ivy Style at Mid-Century. He reflected on Miles Davis, calling him the "original hipster."
The symposium continued with Richard Press of J.Press talking about the brand's impact as well as personal memories. "The paparazzi never under covered my bromance with Frank Sinatra" he said smiling. His final words then bringing a smile to my face, "Thank you for allowing me to share these vintage years with you."
The second day Patricia Field held a conversation with designer Michael Bastian. "The world of preppy has many corners." stated Bastian, "We may tweak it, but it will never go away." He discussed his five years spent at Bergdorf Goodman as the Men's Director, and the difficulty he found while there to buy even the most basics. Those pieces he felt were missing from the industry, he helped create with the retailer's private brand which led into him becoming a designer. Bastian said the inevitable steps for him is to open a brick and mortar store, e-commerce site, and possible a fragrance. It's crucial to have these controlled elements to really drive home the look and feel of a brand.
|Both the tie and fish hook tie bar are from Ivy Prepster.|
Co-authors Jeffrey Banks (former menswear designer ) and Doria de La Chapelle then narrated a slideshow of photographs from their book Preppy, which I then purchased and had signed (see below). Paul Winston then held a conversation with Bruce Boyer on stage, discussing Winston's memories of growing up with his father, founder of the iconic Chipp brand. He spent his days visiting John F. Kennedy at the Carlisle Hotel, recommending him different plaids and fabrics for his custom suits. My mind ached as it tried to envision these elaborately handsome situations.
The symposium closed with none other than Claudio Del Vecchio, the CEO of Brooks Brothers. "What do you say to those who don't think of the brand as being innovative?" Patricia Mears asked Vecchio. To which he responded with multiple facts. In 1900 Brooks Brothers invented clothing made from Harris Tweed, in 1902 the brand created the first of clothing to be made of madras, in 1902 the brand invented the diagonal repp stripe tie, and in 1930 the brand created clothing from seersucker. That was all in that past of course, he led us into the future. The brand now designs custom clothes for The Warblers on Glee as well as 550 custom made suits for The Great Gatsby remake which will release next spring. Afterwards I spoke with him, sharing my appreciation for the Brooks Brothers Flatiron store here in Manhattan. He thanked me, and told me a similar store design will be created in Milan. "We (Brooks Brothers) love what we've done, we love what we're doing, and we love what we will do." His words perfectly summed up the days at the Ivy Symposium. The collegiate look is back, but in newer and different ways than ever before. It is not dead, it is evolving, and I can't help but appreciate the ability to experience and live through it.
|Signed copy of Preppy, which now sits on my desk.|