MILAN — “It’s nice to have a home here,” said Thom Browne on Thursday, unveiling his first store in Europe, located in Milan’s Via Gesù. “I’ve been coming to Milan for 15 years, and I like the feel of the street, there’s a calmness to it.”
Although the street is also dubbed the Via dell’Uomo, or “men’s street,” Browne emphasized that the flagship also displays the brand’s women’s ready-to-wear, which is growing. “I love that it carries both,” said the designer. Men’s wear today represents two-thirds of sales.
Via Gesù is a few steps away from luxury shopping street Via Montenapoleone and is home to the Four Seasons Hotel and brands ranging from Caruso and Rubinacci to Brioni and Stefano Ricci. “I started from tailoring,” said Browne, emphasizing the brand’s fit with the street. The opening confirms a WWD report last month.
Chief executive officer Rodrigo Bazan underscored that the 1,350 square feet of the boutique are “the size of the future.” The unit allows “an intimate, more interesting experience, where we can pay attention to the relation with the customer.” The idea is also “to update our product offer every month.”
The Milan store is part of a new expansion strategy following Sandbridge Capital’s acquisition of a majority stake in Thom Browne last May from Japan’s Stripe International. Stripe retains a minority stake. Sandbridge’s other investments include stakes in Derek Lam, Tamara Mellon, Farfetch, Rossignol, Topshop and Karl Lagerfeld.
Bazan said that in the first or second week of June, the company will open a shop in London, which will be located in Mayfair on Albemarle Street. These steps reflect the relevance of the European market, which accounts for 40 percent of sales. The company does not reveal its revenues.
In particular, Italy has a special meaning for Browne, who produces “almost everything” in the country, except for cashmere in Scotland and shoes in Northampton, observed Bazan. Browne also designs the Moncler Gamme Bleu line, which shows in Milan. Moncler chairman and chief executive officer Remo Ruffini was in the store on Thursday morning to congratulate Browne.
The designer shows his men’s collections in Paris and his women’s in New York, but he made his European debut in January 2009, presenting his fall collection at international men’s wear trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence as its featured guest designer.
The brand is available at 30 multibrand stores in Italy.
Bazan said the company is expanding, leveraging “three pillars: the product has substance; consistency and clarity of the message.” The executive explained that the group is “focusing on a direct-to-consumer formula,” boosting the reach and breadth of its online store, which is directly managed, and its communication. Omnichannel is key, he said. To that end, the company is further building its team and Bazan revealed the appointment of Tori Vinton as vice president of global public relations; Kelly Connor as director of brand relations, and Matthew Foley as director of brand content. Tomaso Galli, while retaining his own independent business, has been tapped as senior vice president of marketing and communications.
The Milan store is based on Browne’s design concept and was realized by the Italian interior design firm ASA Studio Albanese led by Flavio Albanese. The one-level store is divided into five rooms and also carries the brand’s men’s and women’s accessories collections as well as made-to-measure and eveningwear. It draws inspiration from the office interiors of the late Fifties and early Sixties. Poured terrazzo floors, gray Bardiglio marble-clad walls and Browne’s signature window blinds are the main elements. Vintage furniture by the likes of Dunbar by Edward Wormley, Paul McCobb, Harvey Probe, Jacques Adnet, Maison Jansen and T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings contribute a unique touch. While deeply connected to Italy, Browne said he wished for customers to “feel a real American sensibility walking into the store.”
Bazan noted that the furniture is also for sale, if a customer is keen to purchase a piece.
The brand is available at over 250 leading department store and specialty boutiques across 40 countries as well as online and through 19 directly operated flagships in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing and Seoul.
The New York-based designer, who was awarded the CFDA men’s wear designer award in 2006, 2013 and 2016, began his business with five suits and a small by-appointment-only shop in 2001, introducing his first men’s ready-to-wear collection in 2003, followed by a women’s division in 2011. His unusual suit proportions — cropped and tapered pants and shorts with shrunken jackets — put Browne on the map, and he has become known as one of the most directional designers in American fashion in both categories. He is also known for his elaborate and choreographed theatrical fashion shows featuring, for example, nuns disrobed by altar boys and models wearing feathers in birdcages.