Vol. LXII, No. 44
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
DISTINCTIVE DRESS: We have an international clientele that has respect for quality and fabric. Our overall business, now including womens wear, has grown steadily. Princeton is a wonderful market. Nick and Jennifer Hilton, owners of Nick Hilton Princeton, are shown in the womens department of their store at 221 Witherspoon Street.
Nick Hilton Princeton is a success story. Opening in 2001, when just about all the mens stores in Princeton had left town, the studio/store quickly became a resource for high quality, updated classic menswear.
Then, two years ago, womens clothing, with the same careful attention to quality and style, was added. Both departments continue to flourish, emphasizing that there is always a market for excellent quality, style, and workmanship.
In addition, owners Nick and Jennifer Hilton do their best to provide customers with personal, individualized attention that is not always found elsewhere in todays fast-paced, high tech society.
I love working with my customers, says Mrs. Hilton, who is the buyer and manager of the womens department. What Im good at is dressing people. Ive developed a following, and I help put together their wardrobe.
I love the fashion business, she continues. I love to help people put an outfit together. Theres so much out there, it can be confusing. One woman came in recently and said, Its amazing to me how I can find so much here in a small space.
Adds Mr. Hilton: I like to help a guy have more confidence and self-esteem. This can happen when he has the right clothes. We have a certain knack for helping a guy to coordinate. Sometimes, the hardest thing for a man is to get pants, sport coat, tie, etc. into an overall coordinated look.
At Nick Hilton Princeton, gentlemen of today can achieve a look that combines elegance and comfort and is also unique. Mr. Hilton is a master of comfortable elegance. His updated traditional American-styled clothes are a perfect match for Princeton.
The award-winning stylist represents the fourth generation of his family to dress American men. The client list includes U.S. Presidents, captains of industry, statesmen, entertainers, and sports figures. His classic yet individual designs have been featured in GQ Magazine, among others.
My great-grandfather, Joseph Hilton and his brothers came from Russia in the 1880s, and started a custom-tailoring shop, recalls Mr. Hilton. They opened a series of shops, called Joseph Hilton & Sons, and eventually there were 10 stores in New York and New Jersey. The name was later changed to Browning King & Co.
My grandfather, Alex Hilton, and my father, Norman Hilton, continued in the business, and my father later created the Norman Hilton Country line. He established a wholesale business we never had before.
Nick Hilton followed in the fashion footsteps of his forebears, learning all aspects of the business. By 1975, I was head stylist, buyer, and salesman, and in 1980, I became president of the company.
His real interest was in design, however, with an emphasis on softer tailoring and subtle patterns. His designs stressed an international updated traditional style. Its not fashion in the sense of anything trendy or a novelty, he notes. We reinvent and update tradition.
When Mr. Hilton opened his studio/store in 2001, he says that the emphasis on dress-down and casual clothing had begun to shift, and men needed guidance about appropriate apparel. They needed someone to say this is what corporate casual is; for example, if you have a position in the corporate world and want to look like that position, you should dress appropriately.
I thought men needed a guide to life, he continues. Someone, who has just become president of an ad agency, comes in and says I dont know what to wear. Or they are having a job interview or just got a promotion. They need help with appropriate dress for these occasions. Dress should be occasion-oriented, whether its for a job interview or for getting married. Dressing appropriately is demonstrating respect for the venue you are in.
Whatever the occasion, men will find the right look at this inviting shop. Mr. Hilton has also coordinated a number of displays and ensembles to show how different colors, textures, and patterns can work together.
Our taste is progressive traditional, he explains. We have a classic orientation, but on the other hand, its new. For example, we dont have pleated pants right now. We are pushing our guy into being more body-conscious. Its important to be leading the customer, rather than chasing the customer.
Custom-made clothes are a specialty at Nick Hilton Princeton, and approximately half of the suits and sport coats are custom-made. And although much of the merchandise is imported (notably the excellent knitwear from Italy), there is also an emphasis on American products. We have suits from Hickey Freeman, and our basic line of dress shirts are made in the U.S. points out Mr. Hilton. Also, the best khaki pants in the world are made in Reading, Pa.
We also carry Lone Pine leatherwear and Shearlings from California. Leather jackets, practical and stylish, are our hallmark.
Also on display is the Joseph Abboud line of sweaters, shirts, pants, and leather jackets, and Barbour outerwear from England, famous for its waxed finish.
Earth tones are popular today in mens clothing, reports Mr. Hilton, and there has been a move away from navy and black. Neckwear is an exception, and a selection of colorful, printed silk ties from England and France, is prominently displayed.
Basically, fashion and practicality have always merged here, and it is always about quality, he says.
That is certainly true in the womens department as well. Our clothes are fashionable but wearable, points out Jennifer Hilton. A lot of career women are clients, and they come in for tailored clothing that is fashionable. For example, we have a wonderful classic tweed raglan-sleeve belted jacket that is completely updated. Or a short, cropped jacket that works well with wide pants or a skirt. There is also a great-looking ensemble, including wide pant with diagonally woven soft belted jacket, without a collar, that can certainly be worn to dinner or an evening event. And a black ¾ length sleeve cropped jacket, offers a dressier look with soft gathered collar. This could also be worn with dressy jeans.
Lots of women travel today, she adds, and they want things that they can easily coordinate. Tops that can be worn with skirts or pants, for example. Also, today we see a trend toward tight pencil skirts, with lots of stretch and short cropped jackets. Wide pants with cropped jackets complement each other and offer a balanced look.
Also popular are big buttons and snaps. A gorgeous lightweight wool sweater from Italy features both, while a stunning double zipper Rene Lazard heavy wool sweater offers both style and warmth for outdoor wear on cold days.
The womens department focuses on imported lines, including Strenesse Blue from Germany. German fashions are very popular now, says Mrs. Hilton. They are really in demand.
Barbour outerwear from England is also available, including the Barbour International line, with its very stylish motorcycle jackets in red or black. Barbour hats and scarves are also offered.
Lone Pine Shearling coats are favorites now, with winter on the way, and there is also a selection of jeans, including the very popular stretched velvet jeans.
Jennifer has a real style that comes from her background in the fashion business, notes Mr. Hilton. She brings that here, and we have seen the womens department grow to 30 percent of our business. It has gone very well for us.
Its all about quality, he re-emphasizes, whether in the mens or the womens department. People who want quality, who understand the durability, beauty, and comfort of a garment know that it is worth the money and are willing to spend it.
A full-time tailor and seamstress are on the premises, and alterations are always available. The shop is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5. (609) 921-8160.
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