The preppy-chic brand has become a staple from Back Bay to Palm Beach, but this autumn, J.McLaughlin returns to its Brooklyn roots. In its fall catalog, the brand explores its home borough, photographing its new collection against iconic Brooklyn backdrops like the Brooklyn Bridge, at popular destinations such as the River Café and the happening Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, and in favorite neighborhood joints like Paulie Gee’s and Peter Pan Bakery.
“Brooklyn is important to our brand: It’s the location of our corporate offices and it’s where my brother Jay and I essentially started our business,” Kevin McLaughlin, the brand’s cofounder and creative director, tells me. “I felt very strongly that telling the brand’s fall story through the Brooklyn lens was the perfect way to do it.”
Brooklyn is, indeed, where the brand got its start back in 1977. The HQ is sited in a 1920s-era brick warehouse in Greenpoint, a former factory, which now houses J.McLaughlin’s offices, design studio, and manufacturing facilities. Brooklyn is also where the brand’s design team gathers inspiration.
“Walking over to Bedford Avenue for lunch, you will definitely see a more advanced fashion trend than what we would normally do,” McLaughlin tells me, “but we need to see that trend so that we can interpret it. This brand’s responsibility is to bring our customers as close to fashion as they want to go without taking them over the edge. So seeing it in a more advanced way will help inspire us. The rules are much looser in Brooklyn than what we’re used to, so they serve as an inspiration.”
As an example, he cites the playful mixed patterns of an animal-printed blouse paired with a tie-striped skirt (shown here on opposite page). “That sort of juxtaposition of pattern work is something that I take out of Brooklyn.”
He’s also fond of the Fien coat, with its “outrageous” color combination of chartreuse and blue on black. “I think that’s a fabulous piece,” he says. It’s a perfect example of the brand’s intentions with the current collection: more urban and sophisticated, while including some attention-grabbing colors that allow customers to express their own personal style—très Brooklyn.
Shining this spotlight on its home borough doesn’t mean the brand is neglecting the rest of the country, though: J.McLaughlin is looking forward to soon reopening its Madison Avenue flagship after an extensive renovation, and is also opening stores in Maui, Mill Valley, Santa Monica, and in Hanover, New Hampshire—“I’m excited about that store,” McLaughlin says. “I love that academic setting for the brand.”
Brooklyn, however, remains the heart of the brand. “Brooklyn is evolving all the time,” says McLaughlin. If J.McLaughlin’s fall collection is any evidence, the real similarity between the brand and the borough is this: Both change enough to stay interesting, but retain the classic timelessness that made people fall for them in the first place.