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Brooks Brothers

A Tale Worth Telling

Like a once-cherished garment that has been relegated to the back of the closet, Brooks Brothers was a bit tattered and forgotten when History Factory first helped out with an archiving project in 1982.

Founded in 1818, America’s oldest clothing retailer had lost its way. Once one of the country’s most aspirational and innovative brands, Brooks Brothers had been through a series of ownership changes and ill-advised business decisions that brought company morale, customer satisfaction and product quality to an all-time low.

The turnaround began in 2001 when Claudio Del Vecchio purchased Brooks Brothers. Unlike previous owners, Del Vecchio was eager to explore the Brooks Brothers archives, which were maintained by History Factory. What he and his team found there gave Brooks Brothers a clear game plan to recapture the luster of the brand.

From the company’s earliest days, the relationship between sales associate and customer was key to Brooks Brothers’ success. In addition to forming long-term relationships, associates kept order books that were a gold mine of information. The employees not only took notes on what was sold but also jotted down other items customers wanted or had seen in other countries.

These notes helped Brooks Brothers develop some of its most iconic and fashion-forward designs, such as the button-down shirt, panel argyle socks, Harris Tweed, the polo shirt and foulard ties.

Inspired by insights from the archives and guidance from History Factory, Brooks Brothers identified three areas where the company’s legacy could be used to make future improvements:

  1. Product quality: Letters from the archives told Brooks Brothers what customers liked, disliked and expected from this iconic brand. As a result, the company returned to many former suppliers.
  2. Company morale: History Factory created a brand education program called The Brooks Brothers Institute, which covered everything from the company’s illustrious history to how top-quality sweaters are made.
  3. Innovation: To showcase the company’s legacy of design leadership, History Factory produced the book “Generations of Style,” a richly detailed account of Brooks Brothers’ many fashion firsts and the famous customers who wore them.

With the help of the programs and publications we created, Brooks Brothers recaptured the appeal that made it the label of choice for 40 out of 45 U.S. presidents, as well as countless Hollywood stars, business leaders and people everywhere who appreciate timeless style and superb quality.

Brooks Brothers’ rejuvenation proves that a company should never underestimate the value of its history. As Claudio Del Vecchio said, “If I liked the company when I paid $225 million, I loved it when I saw the archives.”