By  on March 26, 2010

NEW YORK — Thom Browne told Fashion Institute of Technology students on Monday night to believe in themselves and focus on craftsmanship.

“The most important thing is just stay true to yourself and design things that show people who you are, as opposed to what you think they want to see,” said Browne, who creates collections for Brooks Brothers and Moncler in addition to his avant-garde signature line. “And take seriously how it’s made because things that are well made will always be attractive to people.”

Browne, whose commercial aesthetic riffs on white-collar workers circa 1957, said he was slow to find his path as a designer. After college at Notre Dame, he moved to Los Angeles to try acting. There he developed a personal interest in having vintage suits altered in unusual ways. He then moved to New York, working in sales at Giorgio Armani and in design at Club Monaco before going out on his own.

“I had no idea it would work,” he said. “I just remember thinking I loved doing it so much, I had to make it work. Because there’s nothing else I love doing as much as this.”

Initially, Browne met only resistance to his shrunken suit proportions, which eventually became his influential signature, setting off a trend in cropped trousers and snug jackets.

“It took a good two years of doing exactly what I wanted and being told by everyone that it had nothing to do with what was going on…everyone told me my clothing didn’t fit, even friends,” he said.

“If you want to be as provocative as you can be, it’s very important to ground that in something very understandable for guys,” Browne said. “Sports or a familiar fabric are good ways to ground a provocative idea.”

Browne’s idea was provocative when baggy suits were the norm.

“So many guys had turned away from men’s tailoring because it was being done in a way that was very…just overly classic,” he said. “I loved wearing jackets and trousers, but personally wanted to wear them in a way that made them a bit younger and cooler. So I took your father’s suit and did it in a way that people hadn’t seen before.”

He reminded the students, “If you want to be in this business, you have to take it seriously and make sure that as many people as possible can actually wear what you do.”

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