Major Thom’s Good Fight

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Published November 15, 2010

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF CIRCE/THOM BROWNE

Now in his tenth year of business, American menswear designer Thom Browne is well known for a number of themes, including the ragamuffin scrunched suit and his embrace of the fantastic. Last July, for instance, he sent models down the Parisian runway in spacesuits; more recently, he recreated the Tour de France. Another theme: a steady stream of high-caliber collaborations, like those ubiquitous Monclers. Now, the self-taught Pennsylvanian is bringing his golden touch to the ongoing fight against AIDS, as the chair of New York charitable landmark Housing Works’ Fashion for Action fundraiser, which takes place this week. We sat down with Browne to discuss his knack for imperfection, why Paris suits him, and the profession he won’t return to—anytime soon, that is.   ARIELLA GOGOL: How did you get involved with Housing Works?   THOM BROWNE: I know one of the founders and one of the directors and they asked if I’d be interested. This will actually be my first time co-chairing Fashion for Action.  GOGOL: You’ve been designing under your eponymous label for about ten years now. What can we expect from you next?

BROWNE: Well the collaborations with Brooks Brothers and Moncler are continuing, as is the collaboration with Harry Winston. So, those keep me very busy [LAUGHS], along with my collection, which we’re showing in Paris and we’ve kind of elevated to a different level… Showing the collection at a different venue almost adds a little value to it. LEFT: BID ON DE LA RENTA  GOGOL: How did showing in Paris compare to showing in New York?   BROWNE: It’s a different kind of audience… they’re almost expecting you to show something more provocative, as opposed to something more commercially driven. Also, it’s a bigger audience. One, because it’s an all-men’s week. In Paris, it was a truly international audience that really wants to see interesting menswear. And I had a good time. I think it’s a good place for me to be able to do what I do.

GOGOL: Do you think you’ll show there again?   BROWNE: Yeah, I’m actually committed to showing there from now on.  

GOGOL: You’ve been quoted as saying that something needs to be a little bit “off” for a look to work. Is there an element that you keep undone in your own look?

BROWNE: [LAUGHS] As with a lot of people, I’d probably say yes. Nothing should be perfect. I think that’s the most important thing. I do wear my jackets almost exaggeratedly short. So that’s probably the most mussed up. Along with, you know, not ironing my shirt.  GOGOL: What’s been your best experience of bringing your aesthetic to another brand?

BROWNE: Every collaboration I do, I feel like I’ve benefitted in so many different ways, it all depends on the organization. With Moncler, there is such a heritage to the brand, and to the way that they work. With Brooks Brothers, in the same way, having the heritage to draw from in that collaboration is invaluable. And it indirectly does influence how I approach my collection. Not in the sensibility or what I actually design, but in thinking about how to grow my collection and develop my collection.

GOGOL: When you’re conceiving your next collection, where do you look?

BROWNE: It’s all over. It’s walking down the street, it’s watching movies.

GOGOL: Have you seen any movies recently that have inspired?  BROWNE: Yeah, The Conformist. Visually… Bertolucci just puts this beautiful imagery in front of you.  GOGOL: Do you still act?  BROWNE: I act every day of my life. [Laughs] I would never go back to acting. Well, never say never. Never say never.

HOUSING WORKS’ FASHION FOR ACTION AWARDS DINNER TAKES PLACE TONIGHT AT MTV NETWORKS. A VIP RECEPTION WILL BE HELD AT THE RUBIN MUSEUM ON THURSDAY, NOV. 18. THE PUBLIC SAMPLE SALE EXTENDS FROM FRIDAY, NOV. 19 THROUGH SUNDAY, NOV. 21 AT CHELSEA THRIFT SHOP. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ALL THESE EVENTS, VISIT HOUSINGWORKS.ORG.