L.L.Bean’s Brave New Adventure

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In 1912 an avid outdoorsman in Maine named Leon Leonwood Bean invented a fully waterproof boot. Using a list of hunting license holders, Bean sent out a catalog promoting it. Hunters loved it and L.L.Bean was born.

Today L.L.Bean is a billion dollar brand specializing in active clothing and equipment, including tents and backpacks. It has dabbled in brand extensions (such as L.L.Bean edition Subaru cars), but mostly sticks to its characteristic outdoorsy image. The Bean Boot is still the brand’s anchor. However, L.L.Bean is about to launch into a new segment, and it might be the brand’s most dangerous adventure yet. [more]

The L.L.Bean Signature line is a new collection for men and women featuring modern fits. These updated styles and cuts are inspired by the L.L.Bean archives and will be available for characteristically affordable prices. The “Plain Weave Signature Suit,” for example, will sell for just over $200. After introducing the concept last autumn, the line is finally ready for retail March 15. The brand is teasing the launch with day-by-day pre-launch items.

The brand’s style has always been reliably the same. So to assure a more modern look, the brand secured the design services of Rogues Gallery founder Alex Carleton. Carlton’s resume includes designing for Abercrombie & Fitch and Ralph Lauren, both brands one can see as influences of the Bean Signature line. The brand is wisely not going overboard though; Carlton admitted that the line would not be hitting the Paris runways, but instead would facilitate “modern, everyday dressing. My goal is not to challenge you. My goal is to make your life better.”

Some may consider L.L.Bean as a “Dad” brand – a conservative and comfortable parent to J.Crew’s preppy and fashionable youth. But in all likelihood, it is J.Crew that has the most to be worried about regarding L.L.Bean’s savvy brand extension, as the venerable brand’s modernized line could very well fall into favor with a younger demographic.

But L.L.Bean shouldn’t stray too far from its Bean Boot roots. As The New York Times said of the brand, “Part of the charm is that nothing seems to change about the products.”

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