Thom Browne Talks Experimental Fabrics & Made In NY Suits

 

Benjamin Fitzgerald

Turning traditional tailoring on its head, New York's Thom Browne has accrued a reputation for his out-of-the box fashion shows - steeped in religious symbolism - and a uniformity toward his Made In New York suits.

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Thom Browne - like the spelling of his name - is different. Turning traditional tailoring on its head, the Philadelphia-born designer has accrued a reputation for his out-of-the box fashion shows - steeped in Catholicism, and a uniformity in design. He is the fashion industry's provocateur. And he doesn't mind.

Browne rose to attention last decade as a men’s wear designer, having altered traditional tailoring since his debut with his provoking short suits. He then ventured into women's wear and today the Thom Browne business is split 65-35 men’s to women’s, confirmed WWD in an interview with the designer.

 

Based in New York, Browne's tailoring is now just as important for women  - as it is men - he tells WWD, based on impeccable craftsmanship and quality of fabric.

“There’s nothing better than seeing a woman in a beautifully tailored jacket or trousers or tailored dress,” he says.

The Thom Browne silhouette is classic - sack coat, topcoats and tweed suits (mostly grey). But the fabric treatment is very experimental. 

In the past, tailored pieces have come in guipure lace with mink trim, organdy embroidered in Browne’s registered tartan with mink and astrakhan, men’s fabric trimmed in horsehair or sprouting 3-D flower appliqués.

It's unlike anything the industry has ever seen in suiting. Browne told WWD that he doesn't have any design icons per se. But there are iconic essences to his work, following stints under the infamous Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. 

 

“To create the worlds that they have created is incredible,” the designer said to WWD, of Armani and Lauren.

With a confidence in his suiting, Browne's tailoring has become highly sought after by retailers too.

Toby Bateman, sales and buying director at Mr Porter, compared Browne’s impact on men’s fashion to Hedi Slimane’s stint at Dior Homme. 

“When he first [rede- fined the silhouette of the suit] the industry didn’t quite know what to make of it, but gradually this aesthetic got taken up by more and more men and more and more designers,” he told WWD.

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“However, it’s not just the fit that counted but also how, via the fabrics and the detail — particularly his signature red/white/ blue grosgrain — showed that even when you use something as classic as a grey flannel cloth, a man can still look and feel edgy or individual rather than feel ‘uniformed’ by his suit. This is clever.” 

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According to WWD, Browne has invested in infrastructure too. Six months ago, Browne purchased the hand-tailoring facility run by his longtime tailor Rocco Ciccarelli in New York. Ciccarelli took an interest in Browne’s unusual proposition for a man’s suit when the designer was just starting out.

When Ciccarelli was looking to sell the company but didn't want to lose his brand name, Browne was the ideal buyer.

Then in July, as part of the inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s, Browne launched a new collection of made-to-measure suits produced in Ciccarelli’s facility. 

Offering Made In New York suits - a concept in which Browne is deeply invested - he ensured the highest level of production quality for men's suits.

In an interview with New York Daily, Browne expressed his passion for locally-made after his men's Spring 2016 show: "For me, it's about how to get the best quality. The idea that people around the world see the quality that's being made here is wonderful. 

"There are a lot of people doing really great things here. New York has always supported me and I have always supported New York."