Classic American sportswear is among the most popular trends for fall and G.H. Bass wants a piece of the action.
The venerable brand, whose roots trace back to 1876, is introducing a premium-priced collection under the G.H. Bass name for the first time this fall.
For the past several years, the brand has produced a lower-priced line under license, Bass Outdoor, that is heavily skewed to outdoor-related clothing for men, women and children. That line is sold at Macy’s, Belk, Saks Off 5th, Sierra Trading and other retailers for under $200.
But the new G.H. Bass line is centered around essential pieces such as oxford button-down shirts, workwear-inspired vests, wool boucle trousers, waterproof tech jackets, rugby sweaters and varsity jackets for men. Called Modern Ivy, the apparel collection is designed to complement Bass’ fall footwear assortment of the same name and intended to honor the brand’s heritage.
“The footwear began rolling out in August and is performing really well,” said Chris Paulk, president of G.H. Bass. “Now we’re broadening it into apparel.”
Paulk, who joined the company in September 2021 after 13 years with Tommy Hilfiger, is the architect of a repositioning of the Bass brand that includes elevating the product offering, revamping the logo, closing of a fleet of outlet stores and heightening the focus on direct-to-consumer selling.
Core to the repositioning is Bass’ focus on its signature shoe, the Weejuns penny loafer, that represents some 80 percent of the brand’s overall sales. The Weejuns too has been updated to include an array of colors, materials and models. Prices were also raised to around $175 from $110 three years ago.
The Modern Ivy footwear collection is based on the brand’s New England roots — it was founded by George Henry Bass in Wilton, Maine — and offers both Weejuns and other footwear models in Harris tweed and houndstooth with wool vamps and chenille patches inspired by vintage varsity jackets.
And now, that same sensibility is being used for the apparel collection.
“The inspiration was wardrobe staples in classic Ivy-inspired styles,” Paulk said. “We did a Letterman’s Weejun so now we’re doing a Letterman’s jacket with a relaxed fit and tonal branding.
“Today more than ever, the founding principles of G.H. Bass live on as we introduce new staples that are crafted with intention and continue to find authentic ways to combine the classics with the contemporary,” Paulk added. “This has inspired our unceasing quest for improvement through craft and creativity.”
The lead designer of the collection is JR Hancey, vice president of design for Bass, who also came to the brand from Tommy Hilfiger. “The Modern Ivy concept emphasizes versatility, sophistication and comfort, offering collections in apparel and shoes. Our goal is to design simple and beautiful pieces that can be handed down from one generation to the next,” he said.
All told, the initial collection will consist of 23 pieces. Among the key items are a heavyweight fleece with a brushed interior, a seam-seamed cotton ripstop twill pant and the top end varsity jacket in Melton wool and napa leather. All outerwear pieces also use Primaloft fill for warmth, Hancey said.
Details also nod back to the footwear with the Weejuns’ whale tail cutout making an appearance on the back yoke and pockets of some of the pieces, Hancey said.
Prices will range from $45 to $350 and the collection will launch on the Bass e-commerce site on Tuesday. The line will be offered in XS to XL so it can be worn by women as well, Paulk said, although the initial capsule is considered menswear.
In the future, Paulk said he hopes to bring the collection to the same distribution channel as the Weejuns and other footwear within the Bass family: premium department and specialty stores.
But for now, the focus is online.
To promote the collection, Bass will employ digital ads, social media and email messaging highlighting a campaign that will feature both the apparel and footwear.
“We will continue our efforts of targeting a new consumer who is looking for timely and timeless all-purpose wardrobe essentials, while broadening our offering to current consumers,” said Marlene McDade, senior vice president of global marketing. “We always say that the Weejuns are the gateway to the world of Bass. We can now expand the world of to include apparel items that were intentionally designed/crafted to be the perfect, natural extension of our iconic footwear. The classic Americana uniform…classic and authentically Bass, for nearly 150 years.”
Coming next for the spring season will be denim, the team said. “We think of this as building a closet,” Paulk said. “Classic pieces with modern touches that are not only of-the-moment but also stay to to our brand.”