When Brian McCourt was nine years old, he was like a lot of boys his age in that he had a paper route. Unlike a lot of his peers at the time, though, he didn’t blow all his earnings on comic books and candy. He was building up a budget to develop a better wardrobe instead.
“I would save my money and buy pants,” the designer, contractor and co-star of HGTV’s Backyard Builds recalls with a laugh. “My mother was like, ‘What’s wrong with this kid?’”
As it turns out, nothing: McCourt has not only established himself as a TV celebrity and creator of heirloom furniture, but as a strategic partner with one of Canada’s most storied menswear retailers. Last week, McCourt was on hand at the upscale Yorkdale Mall to show off Harry Rosen x Brian McCourt: The Harry Rosen Home Edit, which marks the brand’s first major expansion into interior design.
Curated by McCourt with handmade goods both locally and internationally produced, the store has worked with the designer to create an experience where each item can be bought by scanning a QR code. This includes leather lounge chairs, hand-knotted rugs and – to emphasize the synergy between fashion and décor – limited edition pillows inspired by traditional suiting fabrics.
McCourt, who joked he’s “only in it for the free clothes,” said he was attracted to the collaboration based on the values he and Harry Rosen share.
“For a long time I’ve been encouraging people to buy things that are solid, well-constructed and that will last,” he said. “We have a very similar point of view on that idea to invest in yourself, and also invest in what you’re buying for the long term.”
Harry Rosen president and chief operating officer Ian Rosen told Menswhere the move into home luxury was a natural evolution from similar shifts the retailer has made into areas such as personal grooming and technology. As they create a more dynamic and versatile wardrobe, for instance, men are also increasingly thinking about what kind of home items they want in place as part of their morning routine, or what they want around them when they’re working remotely.
“It makes sense when you think about the lifestyle that our clients are aspiring to live,” he said, noting pandemic’s influence on those lifestyles over the past few years. “That myth of sitting at home in old sweatpants wasn’t what people were doing. They were looking to find comfortable, fitted, incredible stuff. And in the same way, people want to love the place and spaces that they’re in.”
McCourt agreed, pointing to a desk he custom-designed as part of the collection.
“The utilitarian pieces of your home become the design features. So if you’ve put together a makeshift desk and there’s wires hanging over everywhere, that would harsh my productivity over time, because I like things to be clean and neat,” he said. “I think that we should approach a desk with a bit more weight. When I work at a desk I want to work at a nice desk. I want to work in style. And I think that the investment in that can also help you do better at work, because you feel good sitting there.”
Rosen said the store environment’s use of QR codes are intended to be as simple to scan through as scrolling on social media platforms like Instagram. The idea is to reflect that shopping for clothes or home décor can happen in many places at once, and can cross channels as well.
“It needs to be experiential. Retail is no longer about stocking the shelves high and watching it fly,” he said. “This is about inspiring a purchase. It doesn’t need to be in the store, and it doesn’t need to be immediate. It can be at home, and it can be a situation where you throw something on your wish list.”
McCourt admitted his favourite piece in the collection was a dining table with a base whose shape changes depending on where the viewer is standing or sitting. Seeing many possibilities is a key element of his approach, whether he’s reimagining a backyard or a living room.
“Mother Nature is is definitely a fair consideration, obviously, when you’re working outside,” he noted. “But in terms of the flow, or of how people are going to live or entertain in a space, all of those thoughts are really quite similar.”
Rosen said the Brian McCourt x Harry Rosen Home Edit could manifest itself in the retailer’s other locations, though it may require thinking about its use of floor space and how its clothing can complement décor items. He pointed at a couch, for instance, and a sweater on a rack behind it. Both of them, he argued, would be great purchases to make as the seasons get colder.
“People are experiencing the Home Edit while they’re shopping for clothing, so I think there’s going to be a lot to learn from this experience,” he said. “The big lesson coming out of this so far is you can really welcome people in a whole new way when you’re welcoming them into something inspirational.”