Thom Browne

The sartorial prankster reveals his tricks of the trade. By Gabriel Bell
thombrowneport_instoryNew York Times reporter Cathy Horyn champions his work as the future of American men's design. Author and designer, Alan Flusser, on the other hand, called his high-ankled pants and challenging jackets, "the most irresponsible clothes I've seen in my 30 years in fashion." Whatever the reviews, Thom Browne now occupies center stage in men's design.
After a stint at Club Monaco, Browne launched his own label—a brilliant, if idiosyncratic, take on the classic textiles and tailoring of Saville Row. Incorporating a studied, timeless understanding of suiting and bold, sometimes androgynous, brush strokes, Browne's work has extended to similarly inspired lines for women and Brooks Brothers. From beach boys in sweaters with surfboards to smart, suit-inspired looks for women, Browne's spring '08 sees Browne playing with more relaxed looks, but with no less attention to detail or his wildly orchestrated presentation. Read on as Browne leads us through the nuts and bolts of his recent break into womenswear as well as his latest collection—and for more of the designer behind the scenes, check out our new video "Thom Browne—Behind the Collection."
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Your menswear is so particular, so idiosyncratic. Were you ever concerned about the public response?
I always knew that it would not be for everyone, but I also knew that if I liked it, there would be people out there who would too.
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Was it tricky launching a women's line?
Actually, I've always done women's designs by custom order through my shop.
In terms of gender, do you have a preference as a designer?
I do consider myself first and foremost a menswear designer, although my womenswear is certainly important to me. There's definitely a playful, androgynous quality to some of your work.
There's definitely a playful, androgynous quality to some of your work. Are your designs unisex?
It's not so much about androgyny, but about incorporating new ideas. Sometimes these come from womenswear, but always in very masculine ways.
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What is your design process? Do you use inspiration boards?
"I don't use inspiration boards. I take inspirations and almost forget…like looking at a picture and immediately looking away, and that five percent that you remember is that thing that is the most important. How it becomes mine is because of that 95 percent that I forget."
Your shows are such a big part of your willingness to take risks as a designer. Tell us, which comes first, the swimsuits or the surfboards?
For spring/summer '08, the swimsuits came first. But there isn't any set way. Sometimes an overall concept or idea comes first.
It's obvious you're having fun with your shows and so does the audience. Any chance you were a theater major?
Actually, I was an economics major.
Portrait by Marcelo Krasilcic
The sartorial prankster reveals his tricks of the trade.
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