Uncle Sam’s Outfitters, located in the Larkin District, is in the midst of relaunching its store and brand. The seven-storey warehouse, chock full of authentic military clothing and fashionable oddities from almost every military outfit around the world, is undergoing an overhaul that will see the 400,000 square foot building converted into a destination like no other in Buffalo NY, or the country for that matter.
A new retail team has come together at Uncle Sam’s, being led by Creative Director Lou Schreiber (resume includes Macy’s, Tommy Bahama, Levi’s), who is right now busy taking the show on the road to Brooklyn, where Uncle Sam’s will be launching its new concept at NY Fashion Week. “It’s all about the brand R&R,” says Lou. “Repurposed/Reused is a lifestyle fashion branding movement that focuses on sustainable fashion, also called eco fashion, which is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of environmentalism and social responsibility.”
Not only will Uncle Sam’s continue to sell its repurposed merchandise “as is” with a spit-shine, it is also getting into the business of launching in-house brands. Partnering with Lou on this adventure is Co-Creative Director Tamora Lee (NY designer now living in Buffalo) who will be coordinating artists/designers to recreate the image of the Buffalo showroom and its lines. At the same time, a bevy of designers will be deconstructing the apparel in order to reimagine new fashion statements. Artists and designers include Holly Henderson, Lawrence Pizzi, Mary Grace, Sandra Jean Wilson and Floyd Baker.
Soon the world’s largest Army Navy store (yup, that’s us) will be converted into a showroom that will more resemble the original roots of the Banana Republic brand. The merchandise is being catalogued and inspected. The displays are all being carefully and systematically reworked. A historic clothing and accessories gallery called Ike’s Bunker is in the works, with original uniforms paraphernalia dating back to WW1. “We’re creating what is being termed a “Fashion Distillery”, Lou told me. “We are building an exclusive showroom (second floor) for designers and movie set designers to visit that will feature one of every clothing item. We are even going to have customizable surplus where we can manipulate clothing and add design elements upon the request of the customer. Buffalonians might not know this place as much as tourists from Japan, China and Europe do, but that’s all about to change.
“We’re turning Uncle Sam’s into an international and local brand. It’s going to be more modern and edgier. But it’s still going to have the “authentic and real” flavor. This warehouse will become a destination, and we’re going to tie it all in with what Larkinville is doing. Whether that’s incredible murals that we will have painted, or 3D likenesses of military personnel parachuting off the building, we are going to take this already cool and successful concept to an entirely new level. And guess what? It’s all here right now in this building… we’re just going to have some fun playing around with it.”
Uncle Sam’s co-owners, Rob and Rich Geist, have handed the creative reins of the fashion department over to Lou and Tamora to establish R&R in the market. Uncle Sam’s will be hosting a celebratory party in November. R&R will be the first clothing line to be featured on the runway at NY Fashion Week this Thursday.
Uncle Sam’s Outfitters | 290 Larkin Street | Buffalo, NY | (716) 852-2769 | Website | Model photos: Floyd Baker