To anyone keeping track, one of the most sustained buzzwords in the fashion industry is resuscitation. From the fabled overhauls of Gucci and Burberry to the recent trademark sale of one of America’s mid-century moderns, Norman Norell, conventional wisdom suggests how much easier it is to revive a label with a defined history, and a pre-existing customer base, than to create one from scratch. Falling somewhere in this continuum is Penguin — an American counterpart to Lacoste and Fred Perry — established in 1955 with a casual, vintage aesthetic and unmistakable logo. Chris Kolbe, VP of Marketing, who learned the ropes at Polo Ralph Lauren, the archetype of Yankee lifestyle dressing, spearheads Penguin’s relaunch. His enthusiasm reinforces his personal connection to the clothes, and indeed, it is his family portrait, super sized, with members wearing Penguin, that flanks the foyer of the company’s first freestanding shop in midtown Manhattan. In the two years since Kolbe was given the keys to the brand, Penguin has been rescued from the annals of the pre-Tiger golf world by retooling its apparel and footwear, introducing new categories such as clothing for women, and developing witty print advertising that targets the coveted influencer audience. Now the collection is available at such style emporiums as American Rag, Barneys, and Fred Segal. Stockists in Europe include Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. Further defining the brand, the Original Penguin shop, at the foot of Bryant Park, offers a stylish oasis within the surrounding corporate bustle. Sporting iconic Hans Wegner and George Nelson furniture, the 2,000 square foot space is a paean to a certain well-heeled suburbia. Even the green and bronze striped shopping bags suggest baize and wood paneling. In here, one can find bright elements of the sporting life: cotton windbreakers, tennis dresses and Pucci-esque patterned beachwear. This penguin has found its wings.
Photos: Penguin’s Earl and Betty shirts