This blog is supposed to be a positive celebration of Americana but this week there’s been a bit of a negative tone about where some of the classic US brands are today. It’s not really my place to have a dig at these companies. In reality I just ignore what most of them are doing these days. But, the thing is they’ve been contacting me, not the other way around.
It started with LL Bean earlier in the week, but to tell the truth, I liked the way they handled it. As a brand LL Bean obviously understand that customers have opinions, not always good ones, but they are big enough to handle anything in their stride. They even linked to this blog from their Facebook site and follow The Weejun on Twitter. And you know what, they know exactly what they are doing because it got me thinking this week about LL Bean and a brand that I’d been ignoring for the best part of a decade now.
Today I got an email from a PR firm representing GH Bass based in New York. How different. Bass is a company that doesn’t even have real website, has no idea of the groundswell against the dumbing down and trashing of the product quality and obviously sees the internet as a tool for its own end. Nothing to do with the customers.
Rather than than rewrite everything I’m going to quote the correspondence, names of course withheld to protect the ‘innocent’.
“we just discovered your site. Love it! Especially since Bass is the one who coined the term Weejun in 1936! I thought you might like to read the attached news on the newly redesigned Weejun from Bass.
Let me know what you think!”
Funny I never knew that about Bass. Now I know where I got the name for my blog from and why there are loads of pictures of Weejuns. Fancy.
Well, you asked me so I’ll respond politely and honestly. (I’d already seen this abominable creation over on Ivy Style and realised that poor old Mr I.S. had posted about these shoes as if he liked them. So many people left comments that you can see he tries to back track from the original stance. Again, when I saw this early today I didn’t want to get involved in the war over there with the Ivy. But in the light of the Bass PR it needs to be mentioned).
I responded to Bass, thus:
“Thanks for the message of support. There’s a lot of love around for the original Weejuns.
I have to say though I haven’t found anyone who knows about the classic models who likes that Dover shoe.
Whilst I understand the need for a company like Bass to continually change, so many classic US brands seem to have lost their confidence in the products that made them great. In the case of Bass it’s the cheapening of the quality of the core models like the Weejuns. Making them offshore is not the issue really, rather that the materials and quality control is pretty poor.
Having said that the Heritage collection from a few years back was a welcome project and I see that the venture with Opening Ceremony has produced some interesting colourways on the original Weejuns, and that’s encouraging.
Over here in London I have a project to put some high quality replica Weejun models into production to satisfy the demand for them. Now, if Bass were to reproduce some classics again in quality leathers (I know they’ll say that brush off is ‘quality’ but trust me, I know about leather and it’s the worst quality material there is) then I wouldn’t need to bother producing them. The demand is there. It may be a niche but it’s a global one and as a PR you’ll know that column inches can be gained these days from heritage products.
Sorry, to go on, but you asked! Hopefully you can filter some it back to Bass.
If Bass need direction on this there are plenty of us out there who can help.
All the best,
Shortly came the response:
“This is so interesting because it’s in stark contrast to the reaction we’ve gotten here which has been overwhelmingly positive. Fashionable men have been super appreciative of the update and say they don’t feel like it’s the same stodgy shoe their dads wear. In fact the Fashion Director and Editor at GQ both snapped up pairs for themselves as have high profile celebrity stylists. But hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion! And actually the
leather used in the new Dover is different and of a higher quality.
At any rate, I appreciate your honesty and wish you all the best with the site.”
It’s funny isn’t it? Everyone wants to tap into the internet to understand their customers but few actually want to listen. LL Bean did, to their credit.
The Bass response shows the sheer folly of following fashion at the expense of brand heritage. I also know some secret info about the Bass operation in the UK that is astounding in its crassness.
The leather remains appalling corrected toxic stuff. Why do people think shiny leather is good leather?
But GQ, I ask you.