See How Brooks Brothers Celebrated Its Bicentennial

America’s oldest fashion house hosted an Americana-theme event with hot dogs, birthday cake—and caviar.

By Jim Shi May 14, 2018, 7:31 AM EDT

In addition to the vintage hot air balloon, the Atrium space also included an oversize screen running a reel with historic ads and videos, a custom green screen photo moment, and vintage-inspired food carts that served classic New York street foods and treats from hot dogs and pretzels to pizza and bagels with lox and cream cheese.

Photo: Line 8 Photography

Brooks Brothers Bicentennial Gala
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As part of a year-long celebration of its bicentennial that began in January with a grand fashion show at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence during Pitti Uomo, Brooks Brothers returned to its hometown of New York City for a musical extravaganza on April 25 that paid fitting tribute to its status as America’s oldest, and most esteemed, fashion house.

Hosted by Brooks Brothers C.E.O. Claudio Del Vecchio, the black-tie gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center, attended by celebrities including Christina Hendricks, Pablo Schreiber, Yara Shahidi, Katie Holmes, Zac Posen, and more than 500 clients, honored all things American, and Americana, featuring a celebration of American music: everything from jazz and bluegrass to gospel and the blues.

Designed and produced by the Firm, under the direction of C.E.O. Samantha Sackler, and Brooks Brothers senior events manager Shelli Benfatti, the evening was a celebration reflecting the longevity of Brooks Brothers as a company and its continued strength and relevance today, according to Arthur Wayne, vice president of global public relations for Brooks Brothers.

“Fashion and music have always been interconnected—with Brooks Brothers and jazz being the oldest in America—and we wanted the concert and even the party afterwards to showcase the evolution and innovation of both,” Wayne said.

Eschewing the format of stereotypical fashion events or retrospectives, the evening sought to recognize the longstanding relationships that the brand has had with generations of families, clients, and friends (not to mention nearly every sitting president). “We viewed the evening as more of a thank-you to them and those who came before us,” Wayne said.

To add to the night’s desire to uplift and surprise, no performers were announced in advance. “It was a risk but it brought excitement to the evening,” said Wayne.

From start to finish, it was an evening designed in made-to-measure fashion. The evening used Brooks Brothers' iconic colors, fabric patterns, and sheep logo throughout—from the step-and-repeat in the Hall of Fame to the framed video wall to a larger-than-life vintage hot air balloon hanging over the central bar area in the grand atrium with custom wicker basket and free-flowing florals.

Complementing the main party space were two bespoke venues—the Appel and Dizzy—each outfitted to recall a different era of American pastime. “I wanted each room to reflect a different facet of the brand and to always have this tension between past and present, old-fashioned and modern,” said Wayne.

Wynton Marsalis and Paul Simon joined a bevy of noted musicians, including Alison Krauss, Mark O’Connor, Jon Batiste and the Dap-Kings, Chris Thile, Shirley Caesar (who sang “Happy Birthday”) to toast Brooks Brothers. Jazz at Lincoln Center, a partner of Brooks’ for 20 years, was the only venue considered for the event.

“Wynton and the entire J.A.L.C. team rightfully feel very much a part of the Brooks Brothers family,” said Wayne. From a logistical standpoint, the overall footprint meant both the performance and party could be held under one roof. “Plus the rooms are designed in open spaces, which offered flexibility in design and flow,” he added. Most importantly, because it’s a theatrical venue, the lighting design and acoustics come top notch.

At the conclusion of the concert, guests joined Del Vecchio and the Brooks team in the lobby for an Americana-theme cocktail celebration full of soft pretzels, pizza, potato pancakes, hot dogs, and heaping helpings of caviar—and a requisite bite of birthday cake. If all of it had many likening the party to the ultimate Fourth of July bash, Wayne was all for it. “I’m thrilled if that was the takeaway,” he said. “The evening was a tribute to America and Americana so that absolutely made sense.”

Brooks Brothers declined to disclose its budget for the celebration, but did confirm that much of its “marketing activities and corresponding budgets have been focused on the year-long anniversary celebration.” Later this month, in fact, Brooks Brothers will stage another fashion show in Shanghai followed by a large exhibition of its archives in Tokyo.

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