L.L. Bean's new Signature line: The preppy look gets a risky makeover

When L.L. Bean first announced its plan to launch a hip newclothing line targeting 20- and 30-somethings last August, I quickly joined the chorus of voices crying foul. After all, Bean isn't just a brand; it's an institution, a torchbearer, a monument to a bygone lifestyle. Along with Brooks Brothers, Sperry and a few other labels, it represents one of the last survivors of the great age of prep, when vast herds of preppy clothiers thundered across the American retail plain, dispensing tweed and bespoke throughout the land. While brand names like Abercrombie and Fitch still survive, the company's offerings would be completely unrecognizable to its earlier adherents. Yet, somehow, L.L. Bean managed to stay true to its core mission and survive, a tribute to classic clothing and New England perseverance.

As Chris Vickers, the VP of L.L. Bean's new Signature Line, notes, "LL Bean has been around for 100 years, and any good company tries to innovate and evolve." Last week, L.L. Bean launched the new line and -- to be honest -- it looks a lot like the old Bean apparel line, albeit with a heftier price tag and a sleeker profile.