Shop America’s signature looks at these designer flagships
France has long been looked to for its minimalistic coiffure, Italy for its leathers and furs, China for its silks, but America has most certainly defined its own roster of fashions that are purely its own. As the creators of what are now wardrobe staples worldwide, these designers are some of the main reasons that the American fashion industry is what it is today, and their New York flagships only further drive the point home.
As the country’s oldest clothing retailer, Brooks Brothers is nothing if not patriotic. It opened its first store in 1818, the year the White House officially reopened after having been burned, and has outfitted 39 of the 44 presidents. Famous for its button-down collared shirts, its golden fleece logo is ubiquitous, as is its quality of timeless basics. Suits, sports coats, neckties, tuxes, women’s separates, and a children’s line fill its Madison Avenue flagship, though many of the garments only had to travel from its factory in Long Island City to get there. The store’s 10 stories make shopping a true sport here; there’s even a full-scale PGA tour simulator in-store where customers can pause and take some swings on a virtual St. Andrews Links course while waiting for their suit fitting. (Madison Ave. at 44th St.)
A classic New York success story, Calvin Klein was raised by Jewish immigrants in the Bronx before opening a coat shop in the city in 1968. By 1969, Klein was featured on the cover of Vogue before going on to shapeshift the blue jeans and men’s underwear markets in the 80s (and launch Kate Moss into fame with the accompanying ads). Now, Klein’s clothes are less revolutionary and more timeless professional staples – camel coats, expertly cobbled shoes, linens. Like his streamlined style, his Manhattan home base is sparsely decorated with glass shelves and lots of space between exotic-skinned garments. But despite its airiness, the store still testifies to the fullness of his collection, with a house-wares department on the lower level and a bridal registry as well. (Madison Ave. at 60th St.)
Nothing says Ralph Lauren like old American money, as demonstrated by the mansion that serves as his flagship on the Upper East Side. Created by a New York heiress who never even moved into the palatial home, the mansion is outfitted with dark mahogany, rugs, artwork, cashmere and camel hair. With a background similar to Klein’s, Lauren got his break selling ties to Neiman Marcus before going on to design the shoes, suits (purple, black and polo labels), driving loafers, cable knit sweaters, boucles, corduroys, herringbones, gowns, and – of course – polo shirts that haven’t stopped selling since. (Madison Ave. at 72nd St.)
Also a New York native, Tommy Hilfiger has built his brand around a look that is equal parts preppy and old-school Americana since he began at age 18. Stepping into his limestone flagship is like going back to Holden Caulfield’s boarding school days, as it’s dashingly outfitted with a sweeping purple-carpeted staircase, crystal chandeliers, and vintage antiques from a famous show in Massachusetts, to give some indication. The clothes, too, are confidently bold and colorful without being too much so – rugby stripes, madras, funky seersuckers, oxford shoes fill the racks and shelves, not to mention, of course, some of the finest blue jeans in town. (Fifth Ave. nr. 54th St.)