Next weekend, my wife and I are heading back to our alma mater. It's her five-year reunion, and we're using the occasion as an excuse to buy new jeans and footwear and first novels about investment banking.
While we shopped, my mind wandered. Was there really an Ann Taylor? Brothers Brooks? A Mr. Gap? An O. Julius?
Here's what I learned:
Striking out on his own from the family business, founder Richard Liebeskind, opened his own retail shop for increasingly busy women. As a gift, Mr. Liebeskind, Sr., himself a designer, gave his son exclusive rights to one of his best-selling dress models, which at that time were often "named." This particular dress, the "Ann Taylor," embodied the classic, confident style of the well-dressed woman.
In 1818, Henry Sands Brooks opened H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. on the Northeast corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets in New York City, where the South Street Seaport now stands. In 1850, Brooks's grandsons Daniel, John, and Elisha inherited the family business, and renamed the company Brooks Brothers.
The Gap was founded in San Francisco in 1969 by Donald Fisher and Doris Fisher. The name was derived from the growing differences between children and adults — namely "the generation gap" — which reached its peak with the hippie movement.
With $28 worth of jeweler's tools, two American silversmiths created what was to become one of the country's preeminent fine jewelers, Bailey Banks & Biddle. The Bailey Banks & Biddle name was established in 1878 when partners George W. Banks and Samuel Biddle joined forces with Eli Wescot Bailey, who had taken over the business after his brother, Joseph, passed away.
And there wasn't an O. Julius, but there was a Julius Freed. More on this tomorrow.