Designer of the Year: The Incredible Suit-Shrinking Man: Ultimate Suit Guide: GQ. Link from GQ 11/10/08.
Mainpoint: Clothingmadeinusablog highlights the winner of the Best Dress Shirt made in the USA: Thom Browne.
I wonder what Thom Browne’s reaction to being named Best Dress Shirt made in the USA would be when he finds out that he was declared the winner of a contest judged by a single capricious, non-fashion/non-clothing- business judge. I think his reaction would be similar to the first inductees of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. I was living in Cleveland, OH, when they established the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. This was in 1986, and the very first inductees: James Brown, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis – were so excited that none of them showed (some were excused since they had already passed away). But now, getting inducted is a very big deal. It’s a big party. Maybe this award will be a big deal some day. I am not holding my breath. So, I understand if total apathy is the preferred reaction to the first of its kind award ceremony.
It is sometimes funny the way fate makes go through these many tortuous turns before dropping us to where we are now and to a place that we would never even had imagined. This has been the course of Mr. Thom Browne. Mr. Browne grew up in Allentown, PA, the town made famous by Billy Joel, a steel making town. He grew up in a family of lawyers and business men and was accustomed to seeing very conservative suits. He went to Notre Dame University and graduated with a major in Business. But, instead of jumping into the fray, and using his new diploma, he instead went to Los Angeles, CA to try his hand at acting. While he was in L.A., he had a roommate, Johnson Hartig, who was a fledgling fashion designer. Mr. Hartig would purchase old Brooks Brothers suits and start cutting them up. This looked interesting and soon, Mr. Browne was cutting up old suits himself. And in doing so, he noticed the craftsmanship that went into these vintage suits. He, also, started examining photos of celebrities of the 1950’s and 1960’s and noticed things like pants being shorter and that the sports coat worn by John F. Kennedy seemed to be much shorter than they are presently. This was the nidus of the idea of the shrunken suit.
New York City
Thom Browne had now developed an interested in fashion, but he was living in Los Angeles, but as everyone knows that for fashion, you have to go to New York City. So, in 1997, he sold his car and went to New York City. First, he got a job as a salesman in Giorgio Armani’s showroom and then in 1998 went to work for Club Monoco, a brand of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation. He worked his way up the corporate leader to lead the design department of Club Monoco for several years before launching his own label.
The Thom Browne Label
On the hunch that a sharply tailored suit might suddenly appeal to the hip and aesthetically inclined, he started his own label. He couldn’t afford to manufacture a full collection, so he made five suits made for himself and began wearing them around town trying to drum up business. The person that tailored the suits is a long-time tailor (born in Italy) and son of a tailor, named Rocco Ciccarelli. It is Mr. Browne’s and Mr. Ciccarelli’s committment to craftsmanship that makes a Thom Browne article of clothing so special. The clothes are either hand sewn or sewn with 20 year old Singer sewing machine.
Probably the most pronounced feature of Thom Browne’s suits are “the shrunken suit” – flat front pants with exposed ankles and a jacket that ends mid waist. According to some experts: “He made the suit cool again”. Personally, I am not sure I have enough confidence to wear the shrunken suit, maybe if I knew I was hip, maybe I would try one of those $,4000 suits. Thom Browne has since extended into a complete menswear line with dress shirts, sweaters, ties, underwear, and accessories. I saw a pair of Thom Browne designed boxers in the Bergdorf- Goodman catalog selling for $240. The dress shirts run about $300 – $400’s. Some shirts are avant-garde, some traditional, but you should see some of the runway shows (I have included one link on the bottom). In the same Bergdorf-Goodman catalog I spied a dress shirt with no sleeves, again, maybe , not my style. However, there are numerous conservative looking dress shirts for us fuddy-duddies.
In 2006, Thom Browne partnered with Brooks Brothers to design higher end clothing for Brooks Brothers under the name, Black Fleece. In general, the designs are more conservative than some of Thom Browne’s original designs, but are extremely well made and not inexpensive.
Not to sit idly by, Moncler, a French sportswear company and down apparel specialist has teamed up with Thom Browne in 2008. It has given Mr. Browne a new venue to experiment with. (See Video Link below).
In my blog entry “Best Dress Shirt Made in the USA vs the World” I ended the article with a quote from Calvin Klein: “Nothing earth-shattering has happened in men’s fashion. How much can you do with men’s clothes?” I think that Thom Browne and fans of Thom Browne would disagree with that statement. There is definitely a change happening.
Other Links to check out on Thom Browne
Paris runway show 1/2012 – slideshow GQ magazine – Fashion shows – sometimes it is just for show and not truly exhibiting what is for the public.
“I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” -Ralph Lauren