AVENUE Picks

In the Issue: Modern Maverick

by admin
Friday, January 6, 2012
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Thom Browne: The All American 

by Guest Editor, Kelly Bensimon

What do I want you to know about American designer Thom Browne? Everything. The first time I met Thom Browne was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during one of the Costume Institute events. I listened to him talk to Glenn O’Brien about menswear, while my tween girls, direct from their piano lessons, politely gobbled up every hors d’oeuvre they could get their hands on. One of my daughters noted the fashion choices: “Mom, the men had on pants that were too short.” I laughed, remembering the boys I met at Trinity College, who all wore their pants hemmed a little shorter than the average male, and probably still sport them with boat shoes. To me, the shrunken, fitted look is my classic American dream suit.

Obsessed with Browne’s reinvention of the tailored 50s suit, I went to his studio for a chat. The fitted black suit and clean white shirt he wore are just two symbols of his unwavering design integrity.

It’s rare to come by a designer with such physical drive. Browne was a long distance swimmer and now runs eight miles a day. The discipline and uniformity he shows in his personal life is echoed in his designs. His womenswear collection, now in its second season, has a strong foundation in fitted shirts, jackets and menswear-influenced style, yet allow for a sexy playfulness. For evening, Browne created a mermaid skirt, with a sheer underpinning I thought was the skirt. He even has an embroidered fitted jacket with yellow ducks all over it.

His aesthetic is so pure that the oldest American retailer asked him to design for them. Browne made the suit-a rite of passage-youthful and charming to the 20-somethings with the label Black Fleece at Brooks Brothers. Browne took your dad’s suit and made it cool, modern and chic. While many people’s instinct is to reinvent the wheel, Browne just wanted to make it better. He did the same thing for Moncler by taking the “puff” out of the puffer and adding an athletic and masculine edge to the traditional ski coat. I asked if he made down suits for women, and Browne just smiled. I’m hoping the smile meant “maybe.”


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