Possibly the most talked about piece of the impending Signature Collection from L.L.Bean, is the new interpretation of their classic Maine Hunting Shoe, The Bean Boot. Replacing the leather upper with a weathered waxed cotton we are more used to seeing on a Barbour jacket, makes these boots just that little bit more modern and versatile. This is the perfect statement piece to illustrate what Creative Director Alex Carleton was tasked to achieve in this line. The result is simple, clean, clever, subtly updated pieces that remain connected to the core aesthetic of the brand. More relevant for a younger generation, yet not alienating to those who have grown up with L.L.Bean.
The mission of the Signature Collection was to take iconic elements of L.L.Bean’s style and reinterpret them into a collection of modern designs that update the traditional looks of this classic American institution. The range has around 200 pieces and will be a complete collection, eventually earning its own stand-alone stores, if all goes well.
Carleton clearly has the right pedigree for the job. After a stint at Bean in the 1990s, he has more recently created his own label of just this sort of styling, in Rogues Gallery. A native Mainer, Alex inherently understands the aesthetic of L.L.Bean and the practical necessities that underpin their products, not to mention people’s emotional attachment to the brand. For some, this must feel a little like messing with their Granny’s famous apple pie recipe. Well I say, move over Grandma, change is good!
Taking an historical approach to the collection, Alex Carleton studied the back catalogue of 98 years of Bean design to pick out elements he would reinterpret for this new label. The fit and style of these items such as a Madras Shirt, basic jeans and an Oxford Cloth Shirt-Dress have been updated to create a more modern fit, slimmer silhouette and edgier look. Contemporary every day dressing is the result here, with a collection that is not designed to challenge the consumer but to enhance their own lifestyle. This is not about reinventing the wheel, instead it is an evolution in style whilst keeping Bean's core values at the heart of the Signature Collection.
This fresh approach is one that celebrates the every day fashion that L.L.Bean is famous for, anchored in the traditions of a nearly 100 year old brand, whilst edging them into their next century. The Signature Collection makes the transition from country to town wear more natural, and takes advantage of the current trend for a resurgence in Heritage Sportswear from other classic American labels. The price point is one of the most satisfying things about this venture. Nothing will be much over $200 from what I can gather, and most items are priced to compliment Bean’s existing pieces (those new Bean Boots are $129). This makes the range accessible to anyone who already shops there, and enticing to those who are dipping their toe into these New England-design waters for the first time. And remember, L.L.Bean’s 100% Satisfaction Guarantee? Well it applies to all of this collection too, naturally.
L.L.Bean’s Womenswear offering has been firmly middle aged up until now. Unflattering high waisted tapered jeans, boxy shirts in pastel colours and an established monopoly on turtlenecks have characterized their offering. Not any more! L.L.Bean Signature breaths life into the feminine side of relaxed dressing. Wrap and Maxi Dresses with maritime prints of boats and buoys (and wildlife inspired prints of flying geese too), updated Shirt dresses in Madras and Oxford Cloth and the ability to steal the Men’s 5 pocket Jean for our own wardrobe, will satisfy the ladies nicely. And that famous Boat and Tote Bag? It has also had a little tweak, with a new salt washed fabric, new colour options and altered detailing. I am mourning the loss of the Monogramming option on this one but I appreciate I can’t have it all.
Set to launch in March, this is a deep breath of clean Maine air that is sure to establish L.L.Bean with a younger generation who have missed out for far too long. So, move over J.Crew, Woolrich, Pendleton…there's a new guy in town and his name is L.L.Bean.
(Photos courtesy of L.L.Bean P.R.)