By  on September 15, 2008

NEW YORK — As the news of Thom Browne’s plans to show in Florence spread last week, the influential designer also revealed that Moncler, the French skiwear brand beloved by the fashion flock, has tapped him to design a new men’s collection called Gamme Bleu (French for “blue range”).

DNR has also learned that Browne is developing items for the home, including champagne glasses.

Gamme Bleu will combine Browne’s singular Anglo-American sartorial style with Moncler’s sportif heritage.

Unlike Moncler’s prior collaboration with designer Junya Watanabe, Gamme Bleu will not be co-branded with Browne’s name. It will be the male counterpart to Gamme Rouge, Moncler’s women’s line designed by Giambattista Valli, who replaced Alessandra Facchinetti in the role when she went to Valentino.

Gamme Rouge prices range from $2,500 to $7,000, while Moncler’s mainline outerwear costs about $850 to $2,000. Gamme Bleu prices will probably not be as high as those of Gamme Rouge, since the men’s line will not have the same degree of costly decoration, but will be comparable, according to Moncler chairman and creative director Remo Ruffini.

This brand strategy resembles that of Browne’s collaboration with Brooks Brothers, called Black Fleece. That union is lauded partly because Browne’s aesthetic is highly influenced by mid-century Brooks Brothers.

Moncler is famous for duvet, or down, jackets and for super-glossy cire nylon, but some of its most recent styles feature British fabrics and arm stripes, which mesh nicely with Browne’s signatures.

“We are very much in sync,” agreed Browne. “It’s going to be a really good collaboration.” Down jackets will certainly be part of the lineup, with potential for sportswear and accessories to follow, and everything in the collection will be functional for sport, said Ruffini, who sought Browne for the job and calls him his favorite men’s wear designer.

“The only one who can do this project is Thom. For me he’s the best in the market, and he works with very, very traditional fabrics,” said Ruffini. “This is the moment to do this for men, because we finished our collaboration with Junya,” he added.

Browne’s contract is for three years, or six seasons. The Gamme Bleu brand strategy allows for him to renew at that point or for another designer to take over.

Gamme Bleu will be presented in January in Milan, where Moncler typically has a presentation during Men’s Fashion Week. Moncler is Italian-owned, but still made near Grenoble, France, where it started making outerwear in 1952. It had already made mountain survival gear since 1933.

As DNR first reported online Sept. 5, Browne will show his fall 2009 collection in Florence as the featured guest at the Pitti Immagine Uomo trade fair. Every season one designer is invited to put on a creative event or installation during Pitti. Recent featured designers have been Walter Van Beirendonck, Adam Kimmel, Diesel and Kris Van Assche.

“It’s a huge honor and I can’t wait for people to see what I’m going to do. I have a vision, and they’re totally open to going for it,” said Browne, who had wanted to show in Europe for some time but never took the leap before. He wouldn’t disclose the location he chose, only that it hadn’t been used in a long time. “When you arrive you will know it is so perfect for my whole thing,” he said.

Browne’s New York shows are highly art-directed, conceptual affairs that generate intense and differing opinions. (See New York Fashion Week reviews, page 11.)

He presents avant-garde showpieces that are often influenced by women’s wear and unnamed, dark forces. But he also gets credit for the shrunken, ankle-revealing suit silhouette that has become de rigueur in men’s fashion. Browne’s shocking silhouettes subvert the rigorous, mid-century-banker style that his customers generally go for.

As for designing housewares, Browne confirmed, “In a very small way. I’m not launching Thom Browne Home, but I’ve always wanted to develop things like champagne coupes that I would like to use myself.”

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