Monday, December 29, 2008

Archival Lament: Woolrich Relaunch

Woolrich illustration courtesy Cavidanny


Japanese Woolrich offerings

Growing up, Woolrich was always the default brand if you couldn't afford Filson or wanted something lightweight for hiking or lakeside recreation.

As a brand, Woolrich pretty much disappeared from view (for me) in the 1990s. Every once in awhile, I'd see a ratty shadow plaid cruiser jacket at a thrift or encounter the troubling, Woolrich for women sportswear line (think, tanks and tees, in shades of lavender) at the local mall.

Now, it sounds like the Woolrich brand has been relaunched, reborn.

Regular Woolrich

Relicensed Woolrich

For me, these brand relaunches become a cruel, trickle down story. I'll swoon over the pitch perfect re-do (vintage patterns, top workmanship, perfect styling, beautiful fabrics), but know that I'll never be able to find, wear or afford a final sample.

The relaunched line will only make it to Brooklyn boutiques or overseas web shops (with a few token samples flown out to Seattle). What might, by haphazard shipping, show up in a contextually appropriate retail space (an outdoor or farming supply store, for example), would be sized for big gents or priced beyond the (reasonable) value of the garment (cosmic brand imbalance: webshop Woolrich costing more than stateside Filson).

I'd love to see newly licensed heritage brands, like Woolrich, come back as a mass market staples (with bonus sizing for the women and petite gents, since I'm dreaming). I see no reason why everyday folks wouldn't enjoy sporting stylish workwear with a "vintage touch, Italian influence, designed by a Japanese designer" (High Snobiety, 26 July 2008).

Per normal, emails to the Woolrich USA have produced little information regarding the future availability of these licensed items, in Oregon, or petite sizing for women or reed-thin gents.


Examples of relaunched Woolrich courtesy of Sfilate

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post. Woolrich haute couture, something I was heretofore ignorant of. I give them credit for creative effort, but the whole concept strikes me as ironic, and ultimately a bit sad. Almost like a parody of itself. My thinking, admittedly simplistic and even curmudgeonly, insists that form follow function, and as the old saying goes, "function never goes out of style". These carefully designed items want to employ classic elements, but the elements are torn away from their original context. The result feels like it is forced, and therefore not genuine. Better to just reissue an exact copy of a genuine vintage design from the earlier era.

An example of this reductio ad absurdum came in the form of a pair of Red Wing boots that I ran across recently. They were just like the 875s that I've been wearing happily for the last 30 years or so, except they had sides made out of Woolrich wool:

Red Wing Lumberjack

There are lots of wild designs out there, and especially so in the field of shoes, but I was stunned when I saw these. I understand the appeal of Red Wing boots and of Woolrich wool, but to combine them in this way approaches fetishism.

Don't get me wrong, I applaud their effort. But it's a bit unnerving to witness what's being done to the classic Woolrich name. Not unlike what has happened with Filson, Carhartt Streetwear, Red Wing et al. The designers love the genuineness and the old-school functionality of the old brands, but what they are seeking to recreate comes perilously close to making a mockery of the whole thing.

re:definition said...

i'd consider myself a 'reed thin' gentleman as you put it, and i have no trouble fitting into woolrich woolen mills.

i'm obviously not sure of your measurements, but perhaps an XS might not be too far out of reach.

their prices on the other hand, might be.

Anonymous said...

re:definition said:

"their prices on the other hand, might be."

Regular website prices are usually on the high side, but they often include free shipping. The trick is to shop in the Backroom, or catch a sale. For example, I just picked up a couple of wool shirts for $22 each.

Anonymous said...

Actually Woolrich Woolen Mills is into their fourth or fifth season, and their clothes are fairly easy to find online and in most of the better men's shops in NY. Unfortunately, I missed it, but WWM held a sample sale in Manhattan with 80% off their wares.

Lesli Larson said...

4th or 5th season and these items are still not trickling down to proper Woolrich stockists--like The Portland Outdoor store? I don't like the split identify brand disconnect!

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Woolrich Woolen Mills is a seperate brand under Woolrich designed by the same designer of Engineered Garments.

The items will probably never trickle down to "proper Woolrich stockists," but you can find it at Barney's and Bergdorf's in NYC.

amy said...

I think the trick is to wait until "workwear" and "authenticity" go out of fashion, and all the reed-thin gentlemen now sporting Filson and Woolrich decide to unload their pricey wardrobes on ebay. Give it a year or so. (By "out of fashion" I mean "no longer sold at Barney's and Bergdorf's".)

Lesli Larson said...

Wise advice, Amy! But I hope we're not competing against each other for the buy-it-now items appearing next year on ebay.

Love your line:

"(By "out of fashion" I mean "no longer sold at Barney's and Bergdorf's".)

PrimitiveCinema said...

Growing up in central PA going to the Woolrich outlet for our new winter coat was an annual fall event in our household. The trip was definitely about saving money and not about style though I have a fond memory of the first time I was allowed to buy a wool hunting jacket (my parent's hated guns).

Do you know if the the new haute Woolrich is actually made in Woolrich?

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Anonymous said...

The WWM line is mainly for Europe and Japan, because the prices are too high for normal Woolrich distributors because the products are made in the US.

WWM could never produce their pieces in the US and meet the same price point as the regular Woolrich line which is made in China generally.

Lesli Larson said...

Seems like WWM would/could attract US customers who already pay premium prices for Filson clothing. I'm sure there's a US market for these items (comparable to that of Japan and Europe).

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David Himel said...

I dont see how you can have it both ways. One cant recreate the quality and craftsmanship of the past and at the same time make a product "for the masses". Way back in the day the masses would by a well made garment, produced by a local union shop and pay the complete price reflective of the cost of materials, transport, shipping, and eco costs. The garment would be made to last..reflective of the relatively "high" cost of production..
garments for the masses today are produced in China by effective slave labour and the price is reflective of profit and environmental and labour exploitation. If you want a quality garment you must source it out like quality food..find the maker..ask about their practices..supply, design and then of course be prepared to spend a decent some of money.

of course Im biased because I design and make original leather jackets the way they used to be made, lol

David Himel

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