Feature: Arbiters of Style

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2002
  • Laurie Kahle

These nine leading retail executives live on the front lines of the fashion world, traveling the globe year-round to select the garments from which discerning dressers will assemble their wardrobes. While each man expresses personal preferences through his individualized approach to dressing well, all place premiums on comfort, versatility, and quality. For fall, they say, the emphasis is on sumptuous, lightweight fabrics, subtle details that are the hallmarks
of hand-tailored quality, and thoroughly modern interpretations of timeless classics—such as a double-breasted, chalk-striped suit constructed in a supple new wool and cashmere blend. These gentlemen agree that dressing up is clearly back in style, as seri-ous suits make a comeback without resurrecting the stiff corporate uniform of decades past. Whether they prefer to wear suits or sport coats, these fashion connoisseurs know how to project power without compromising comfort or the ability to exude some personal flair.

Peter Rizzo
President, Bergdorf Goodman, New York

“Hand-tailored clothing, which is cut by an individual artisan, brings out the finer elements of personal style. You can find decent machine-made men’s tailored clothing that can create a uniform for business, but this hinders your ability to develop a personal style. I have had my clothes custom-made since I got started in the business 25 years ago. It’s all about detail and quality, and, of course, taste is a big part of it. My taste is classic in nature, but maybe a little more experimental than most. I enjoy combining clothing and accessories of varied origins, both new and old, with the goal of producing a harmonic, interesting, and eclectic mix that conveys a strong sense of my personal style.”

The Mitchells
Mitchells, Westport, Conn., and Richards, Greenwich, Conn.

“I’m grounded in classicism; it’s a reflection of our area. But I like classic with a twist—something a little unexpected, such as mixing patterns, particularly with shirts and ties. This season is about updating classics and making them look new again, whether it is through the model, new fabrications, or color.” —Bob Mitchell, Co-president

“I try to be fashionable in the sense of being aware of what’s new, and I like to dress accordingly. I’ll probably end up with one double-breasted suit this fall because it’s something new and fresh.” —Jack Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer

Scott Hill
Owner, Scott & Co., West Hollywood, Calif.

“I sell serious clothing, I wear serious clothing, and I enjoy it. Men in business need to care about their appearance; it’s part of providing leadership—you can’t provide leadership in a pair of khakis and a polo shirt. No matter what you do, you have to present yourself in a way that shows a little power.”

Murray Pearlstein
Owner, Louis Boston, Boston

“To me, the new fashion is function. I’m not interested in anything that doesn’t have an application to the way I live, work, play, or travel. Previously, fashion was dictated by designers, but that’s what made people rebel in the first place: They want more freedom in how they dress; they want clothes that are more versatile. If I invest a lot of money in a suit, it has to do more for me than just go to work.”

David Rubenstein
Owner, Rubenstein Bros., New Orleans

“I prefer sport coats because they’re more versatile and they come in beautiful fabrics. I start with the coat, work in the shirt, and then pick several ties for variety. The key is that everything has to be colorfully pleasing, so the colors really need to work together. Art has always been a part of my life, so color is very important to me.”

Crawford Brock
President, Stanley Korshak, Dallas

“After years of wearing casual attire, professional men are returning to suits to make great first impressions. Today’s business world is streamlined; it requires confidence and a self-assured appearance. I have always worn suits, so I am excited to see them come back. The fact that they are more comfortable and easier to wear is a bonus.”

David Neff
Owner, Trillion, Palm Beach, Fla.

“I don’t want to look too studied. I like the look of a guy who appears as if he just reached into his closet and got dressed—all the components just happen to go nicely together. You shouldn’t try too hard.”

Lawrence Covell
Owner, Lawrence Covell, Denver

“My philosophy for dressing is the same as it is for any endeavor: Do it well, very well. Buy the absolute best you can afford and pay the same attention to building a classic understated wardrobe that you would when buying a watch, car, or furnishings for your home. And finally, follow Baldassare’s centuries-old advice: Consider what manner of man you wish to be taken for and dress accordingly.”

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