Mr. Kolbe, 34, had approached Perry Ellis while running the men's division at Urban Outfitters to ask if Perry Ellis would make new versions of the vintage Penguin golf shirts from the 1950s and `60s. They did, and the successful run of more than 5,000 shirts in the first season prompted the company to hire Mr. Kolbe to remake the brand.
Fast-forward two years, and the long-dormant Penguin icon made its way front and center on to the cover of Conde Nast Publications' June issue of GQ on hot actor Jake Gyllenhaal. It launched with limited distribution and a quirky ad campaign in publications such as Vice and Black Book.
"My philosophy was that straight-ahead advertising wasn't going to bring the brand back ... in fashion, it has to be that sort of intrigue," says Mr. Kolbe, who is VP of the brand. He wrote the copy for the bogus "Penguin Profiles" of men-about-town and an ad campaign highlighting men with extreme interests.
The profiles, together with paparazzi shots of such stars as Justin Timberlake wearing Penguin and appearances of the brand on hit shows such as Fox's "The O.C.," have started to pay dividends. Penguin has moved into women's apparel and next year will extend into denim, handbags, eyewear and kids apparel.