L.L. Bean’s Signature updates the classics

L.L. Bean is 98 years old and hasn’t looked this young in decades.

Anticipating its 100th anniversary, the direct-mail retailer based in Freeport, Maine, is giving itself a head start with a new generation of consumers. This week, it launches L.L. Bean Signature, featuring updated versions of American sportswear classics — outerwear, knits, moccasins and its famed tote bag — sold through a new e-commerce site.

L.L. Bean Signature is the brainchild of Creative Director Alex Carleton, known for founding Rogues Gallery, a collection of fashionable yet wearable men’s basics. Carleton worked at Polo Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch before moving to Maine for his first stint as an L.L. Bean designer in 1998, decamping full-time for Rogues Gallery five years later. He returned to L.L. Bean last year to launch Signature, while still manning Rogues Gallery, which has a store in Portland, Maine.

Carleton compares L.L. Bean to working at a large brewery and Rogues Gallery to a microbrewery. “That kind of diversity makes my job fun and a creative challenge,” he says.

For L.L. Bean Signature, Carleton combed through the L.L. Bean archives for overlooked items such as a women’s belted twill jacket ($99) from 1941 and tailored it for a more flattering silhouette. The shirtdress, another L.L. Bean staple, in madras or chambray ($79) comes slightly more fitted than before.

“The Signature DNA is classic American sportswear staples with updated fits — more body conscious and less restrictive,” Carleton says. Some of the new L.L. Bean Signature items for women channel a 1970s-era Jacqueline Onassis flair, including the daysail turtlenecks ($75), cork wedges ($99), piped wrap dress ($89) and Oxford printed wrap skirts ($69).

“It’s what I remember as a kid — my mother — how people dressed in 1970s,” says Carleton, who was born in Massachusetts. “It’s the way the world looked in 1976.”

For men, Carleton, who was nominated for a GQ/CFDA menswear award last year, updated L.L. Bean’s rugged sportswear to fit a man’s body somewhere between the baggy classics your dad wore and a contemporary slim European cut, figuring a typical catalog customer isn’t overly fashion conscious but still wants to look good. For those slightly style challenged or looking for wardrobe ideas, the L.L. Bean Signature e-commerce site groups items, selected by Carleton, for a complete head-to-toe look including knitwear and belts.

The menswear collection consists of affordable basics: Oxford shirts ($49), striped polos ($39), a khaki blazer ($155), chinos ($59) and cargo shorts ($49). A style Carleton revived from the L.L. Bean archives is the Signature featherweight hunting jacket ($99). In footwear, the mariner standard moc takes a classic L.L. Bean boat shoe style and dresses it up with a leather sole ($119). The Maine hunting shoe ($129), made from waterproof canvas, is the original on which Leon Leonwood “L.L.” Bean founded the company in 1912 and is still hand-stitched in the state.

Carleton also paid special attention to the tactile aspect of the L.L. Bean Signature menswear collection. “I close my eyes when I touch the fabrics and imagine I’m getting up at 5:30 in the morning when it’s pitch black in Portland, Maine,” he says.


Christian Louboutin at theOutnet Tuesday: Online shoe vendor is taking up to 65% off retail prices on more than 100 Louboutin styles. Heels on sale include the $348.25 Gabin 140 platform pumps (reg. $995), $278.25 Jean Paul 120 wedge sandals ($795) and the $311.50 Ariella Talon 120 boots ($890). Preregister for the event at


2010 Teen Party Expo Sunday (March 21): New expo targets parents and teens (12 to 18) planning for high school prom, debuts, quinceañeras, Sweet 16 parties and bat/bar mitzvahs. Attendees can check out party entertainers, including DJs, affordable event service providers and a prom fashion show. Admission is $10.

Radisson Westside, 6161 W. Centinela Ave., Culver City. (800) 769-5137. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mykita Wednesday: Gogosha Optique in Silver Lake hosts Berlin-based Mykita eyewear gurus Philipp Haffmans and Moritz Krueger. Buy a pair of Mykita frames at the event ($475 to $595) and receive a 10% credit.

3208 ½ Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 660-1122. 4 to 7 p.m.

The Avenues Art & Design Walk Friday (March 26) and Saturday (Mar. March 27): West Hollywood celebrates its 13th annual Art & Design Walk with neighborhood boutiques, salons and design studios offering special discounts, events or complimentary cocktails. Look for complimentary hair consultations at Marco Pelusi Hair Studio, a one-hour free makeup lesson at Makeup Mandy and a Dr. Seuss birthday celebration at Alpha. On Saturday, all parking restrictions will be lifted from noon to 6 p.m. Check the website below for schedule, maps and participating locations.

Melrose, Robertson and Beverly boulevards, (310) 289-2534. West Hollywood.

LowLuv by Erin Wasson Saturday (March 27): Model Erin Wasson, who designs an eponymous clothing line for RVCA, introduces her jewelry collection, LowLuv, at Ron Herman on Melrose. Shoppers can check out her affordable (prices start at $40) Egyptian-inspired scarab and crane necklaces, rings and pendants.

8100 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 651-4129. 2 to 4 p.m.