Pittsburgh athletes look sharp in suits, thanks to custom stylist
Amy Baron Brourman of Astor & Black Custom Clothiers works with Ike Taylor of the Steelers.
The Pirates' Neil Walker models a suit from Astor & Black.
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For the Steelers and the Pirates, looking good off the field is important, too.
When some Pittsburgh professional athletes need style advice or a suit for a benefit or personal occasion, they contact Amy Baron Brourman, a master clothier, mentor and president's club member of Astor & Black, a Miami-based custom clothier with agents across the country and in Israel and London.
Ms. Brourman was tapped two years ago to help grow the company's Pittsburgh presence. Previously, she's sold for J. Hilburn, Bill Blass and Bloomingdale's, having started out in Macy's training program in the 1980s. Since joining Astor & Black, she's strived to beef up its athlete clientele by visiting training camps and getting to know the city's football, baseball and hockey players.
Astor & Black has "always been very highly touted in the athlete arena" because it was important to company founder David Schottenstein, Ms. Brourman says. He built relationships with athletes by getting to know their agents, attorneys and financial advisers.
Athletes often opt for bespoke apparel because of their muscular physiques.
"If they buy a pant off the rack, those thighs aren't built for somebody who's been developing that part of their body," Ms. Brourman says. "What we're known for at Astor & Black is creating the perfect $1,000 custom suit."
Custom suits begin at $750, with some running up to $9,000 or more. In addition, clients can shop from a selection of jeans, cashmere sweaters, sport jackets, ties, belts, Tumi luggage and shoes.
The suits are made in Hong Kong and Africa and typically require a four- to six-week turnaround. The company recently began some manufacturing in Boston, with hopes of being able to complete designs in about two weeks.
"I like that she's local," says Steelers safety Ryan Mundy. "She's just a phone call away."
Ms. Brourman caters to clients' schedules by meeting with them at their offices, homes or even the weight room.
"I think [the athletes] sort of consider it like this is fun break time. I bring in a tray of cookies or some baked goods. They get to go and shop and it's fun. It's very different for me from my regular clients," which include recent college graduates, politicians, bankers, attorneys and women.
Ms. Brourman and Astor & Black are in the process of exploring a Downtown Pittsburgh location for appointments. She also regularly travels the country for fittings.
Other than the convenience, players like the variety of colors and patterns offered for suit linings, from plaids and paisleys to pinup girls and Las Vegas slot machines. She takes time to not only learn their clothing sizes but also their personal styles.
"I like to switch it up, and she kind of knows what I like. That's kind of rare for knowing someone for just a year," says Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor.
"Ike Taylor's got a lot of taste," Ms. Brourman says. "He was wearing very large, oversized clothing, and we've made him much more tailored."
He's pleased with the results.
"Miss Amy sort of turned me into a suit guy," says Mr. Taylor, a fan of Shop 412 on the South Side for more casual attire. "You like when you look good. That's like when you go to the first day of school, and you've got your new shoes. With Miss Amy, I feel the same way."
Some players aren't as bold in their sense of style and welcome Ms. Brourman's candid advice.
"I'm pretty reserved," says the Pirates' Neil Walker, who ranks Nordstrom and Burberry among his favorite stores and brands. "I like to have a little bit of style, but I can't take full credit."
Mr. Walker turns to his wife, Niki, as well as Ms. Brourman for tips. The Pirates' dress code for travel is usually a sport coat, dress shirt and tie, although some players prefer to wear a suit.
Even if fashion is foreign to her clients, Ms. Brourman encourages them to be part of the process.
"I'll say, 'Wait, I'm not going to do it all. I want you to give me some ideas. Let's look at these colors. We're going to pick three suits together,' " she says.
Mr. Mundy browses websites for looks he likes, then forwards images to Ms. Brourman for consideration. For non-custom apparel, he enjoys shopping online.
"I was pretty bummed out when Saks closed down [in Downtown Pittsburgh], but I go to Nordstrom every once in a while," he says.
His favorite piece he's collaborated on with Ms. Brourman was the navy tuxedo for his wedding last April. She also handled the tuxedos for his father and father-in-law, as well as some of the other groomsmen.
"It turned out very, very nice," he says.
Clients often recommend her to family members, friends and athletes who live and work in other cities. A referral is the greatest compliment, she says. Even when athletes are traded to teams outside of Pittsburgh, sometimes they'll keep in touch and continue to seek Astor & Black's services. Such was the case with former Penguin Arron Asham, who still consults Ms. Brourman for clothes after signing with the New York Rangers, she says.
"I really just enjoy doing it. Each client's suit isn't just coming out of a box. I like to take the time to do all the details."
Contact: email@example.com or 412-401-5841.
First Published September 30, 2012 12:00 am