For decades, the Brooks Brothers brand has been synonymous with high-end, custom designed suits and clothing that transport wearers from the board room to the gold course and beyond. Meet one of the men that ushers everyone from moguls to captains of industry through the plush halls of expertly designed, tailored clothing that suits every lifestyle need.
Responsibilities: Brand, market and specialize Brooks Brothers Made to Measure service, an option for exclusive, high-net worth clientele. The service allows clients to purchase fashion and fabric for their wardrobe that are tailored around their lifestyle needs and that take them from boardroom and the gold course to dinner with clients. This custom service allows for a fit more tailored to the client using Brooks Brothers’ exclusive silhouettes: Fitzgerald; Madison; Milano and Regent.
Last Position: Previously, Cooke worked in Merchandising and Sales division at Cherry Hills, New Jersey based HS Management for 5 years. Following, he operated his own freestanding boutique, Paris Europa, which specialized in luxury, high-end lifestyle clothing and sportswear.
As one of few Master Specialist under the Made to Measure service, an average session with Cooke has a premium of $2,000-5,000 of retail experience. This comprises his expertise and the purchase of suits, shirts, ties, sport coats and footwear. He also has the unique opportunity to schedule appointments with executives in their homes as well as present proposals for his unique services. With entre into this rarefied world, he also has a coveted opportunity to introduce who may benefit from facilitate networking and business opportunity between movers and shakers from diverse industries. Cooke cultivates contacts to enhance Brooks Brothers’ brand and to create and promulgate a more exclusive, personalized shopping experience that is private and extensive.
Remarkably, Cooke’s began his career at Brooks Brothers one year ago as a specialized Sales Associate. In that time, he has been promoted twice up to his current position. Due to the change in consumer buying habits in the aftermath of the economic downturn, Cooke took off a season to analyses his career options and to move closer to family in Philadelphia. Fortuitously, this break coincided with the company’s hiring needs.
Training: Cooke brought to Brooks Brothers 25 years of experience in haberdashery and luxury clothing. “My initial training came from working in my own store. As Cooke has exceled in his new role, he has become a blue print of sorts for aspiring specialists and a model for the ideal way the brand wishes to conduct consumer relations. He serves not only a brand ambassador, Cooke exemplifies the company’s signature customer service through his communications style, preemptive services and his execution of the all-important follow-up service which transforms patrons into lifelong clients.
Talents: To excel in this new position, Cooke has cultivated exemplary listening and communicating skills that have been instrumental to the way he services customers. “Self-confidence is very important in knowing how and when to engage clients.”
Because the role entails knowing and retaining personal and even intimate details of the client’s life and needs, refined communication is key component of success. “The role comes with the lifestyle consultation that reveals when and where the clothing will be worn as well as the image and impression they wish to present and represent.”
Skills: Cook’s success comes in large part from a combination of his seasoned style and fabric acumen, humility and confidence delivered in a cultured setting. He explains, “It is a delicate balance of knowing when to showcase the product, when to listen to the client’s needs and when to cede to his/her desires.” Furthermore, he says, “The customer is right initially, but after fifteen minutes they defer to my expertise.” Knowing how to maneuver around what they think is best and the image they have of themselves against what works best is requires a delicate dance of diplomacy and knowledge. Trust and relationship building has also been very important to Cook’s success and ability to increase and service his clientele. Cook’s longstanding customer trusts not only his knowledge and expertise in style and fabric but also depend on his discretion with intimate financial knowledge. “For some clients, I order select merchandise preemptively, up to 90% of which is retained.” For captain of industry who travel frequently or may clock long hours in board rooms, this is an invaluable service on which they depend. Although not a necessary aspect of his position, Cook is also proficient in taking measurement, a skill usually left to the tailor but which has served him well in assessing and ensuring an ideal cut. ”I have a natural affinity for numbers. If a client has a wider girth (and has a Fitzgerald silhouette suit), my experience tells me where to add more room while retaining a slimming fit. Or I know that the over-arm measurement is detrimental to a garment’s fitting well and comfortably, so I take care with both. These are specifics that clients appreciate.”
Learning Curve: Navigating the world of affluence and influence can be fraught with tension and ego. Cooke says, “Know when to digress and even be able to concede that you cannot satisfy the customers’ desires in a manner that is inoffensive and even helpful. This may even entail recommending a competitor. In so doing, Cooke must safeguard both his professional reputation and that of the company.
Advice for aspiring Specialists: Study the product thoroughly, Cooke advises. “This encompasses knowing the history of the brand, origin of the signature patterns and silhouettes, fabric, style, color palettes, and measurements.
What are the opportunities? Cooke aspires to train associates who have illustrated an aptitude in this area to become Master Specialists in Brook Brothers’ flagship stores.
Best lesson learned: Cooke’s motto is “Promise less and deliver more.”
Originally published in and for Black Enterprise magazine