By  on April 8, 2010

Designer Thom Browne made his name with the most provocative men’s shows in New York but this summer, after years of consideration, he is relocating the runway to Paris. The move is the most dramatic development since Browne sold a majority share of his company to Japan’s Cross Company in December. He continues his high-profile partnerships with Brooks Brothers and Moncler, and recently began a much quieter collaboration with Baccarat.

Here, Browne talks with WWD about the shift to the City of Light, his new owners and his collaborations.


WWD: Why have you wanted to show in Paris for so long?
Thom Browne:
We’re focusing on growing internationally as a collection brand. Showing in Paris opens up the world a lot more. Also, Paris is the best city for understanding innovation and provocation. And when it comes down to a commercial point of view, it’s important to be able to sell that early in the season. Most designers would rather have their show before selling. The selling season is so early, and the shows in Europe are in tune with it.

WWD: Whereas September is too late. So what finally happened to make the relocation possible?
T.B.:
I think showing [Moncler Gamme Bleu in Milan] helped us along, just to get our feet wet with an international audience. And now because of our new relationship with Cross, we have the resources to be able to do it.

WWD: What additional challenges come along with Paris?
T.B.:
It means getting the collection done two months earlier, which isn’t easy. And even sooner, actually, because we have to get everything and everyone over there. It’s going to be a big couple weeks in June. The Gamme Bleu show will be five days before. We will use the same show producer we use here, so it’s comfortable in that regard, but there are big differences between the cities to navigate, so it’s good to have the right resources.

WWD: What would it take to attract you back to New York?
T.B.:
Well, I still have my Black Fleece presence in New York. I’m very proud to be an American designer. But we do have to sell in a true selling season of men’s, in order to get production started. Getting sales done in June and early July is really important from a production standpoint. You really have to get started in order to get the product on the floors in December or January.

WWD: How is it working out with Cross so far?
T.B.:
It’s really nice because they’re really committed to the long term. It’s comforting to get into a relationship and for it to work out in a really productive way. The only problem is my lack of [speaking] Japanese.

WWD: Was it scary to give up a majority share?
T.B.:
No, because I love just designing. Being able to keep doing it was the most important thing to me. To keep creative control is the most important thing. And now I have the resources to move forward and grow and expand on what I’ve spent the last seven years doing. And this is important for every young designer to know. In order to grow, you have to just really want to design. I have been really fortunate in the collaborations I’ve done. Each one has been really supportive. And this feels as good as the relationships with Claudio [Del Vecchio of Brooks Bros.] and Remo [Ruffini of Moncler]. It just works because we respect each other and the goals on both ends.

WWD: You seem to have a cultural affinity with Japan.
T.B.:
I had an idea really early on that the partner would be a Japanese company. I’m really attracted to the culture and what they do. And I think the most important designers in the world come from there.

WWD: And they’re very accepting of avant-garde fashion.
T.B.:
Absolutely, that goes without saying.

WWD: What kind of growth is Cross enabling?
T.B.:
Expanding distribution, further development of the collections and just becoming a well-developed brand.

WWD: Can you fill us in on what you’ve been doing with Baccarat?
T.B.:
It’s a small set of crystal stemware, and we only produced 100. I’m starting on the next set in the next couple weeks. We might do a new one every six months. It’s not a license. We’re selling it ourselves, in my store and through stores I sell the collection into, like Bergdorf Goodman. It’s just a nice little project I wanted to do, even just for myself, because when I travel I always look for vintage Champagne coupes. It’s similar to how my [signature] suit came about. I decided to produce it instead of looking for it in an antique store.

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