Thom Browne Denies Financial Straits, Still Seeks Backer

While Thom Browne continues his search for a financial partner, the controversial designer denied that he is having cash-flow problems.

While Thom Browne continues his search for a financial partner, the controversial designer denied that he is having cash-flow problems or considering bankruptcy.

This story first appeared in the November 10, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I would love to find an investor who would be able to inject some funds into my company so that I can further grow my business,” said Browne, responding to media reports Wednesday. “But the conditions and the fit have to be right. Thom Browne Inc. is not having a cash-flow problem and has no intention to file for bankruptcy.”

In fact, because of the exposure he recently enjoyed in Europe — including a presentation at Pitti Uomo in January and a dedicated space at Colette during the Paris men’s shows — Browne said he picked up an additional 10 doors in Europe and Japan, and the wholesale business as of January was up 117 percent.

“He shipped spring on time, and the momentum and excitement about the collection continues to grow,” said Tommy Fazio, fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman Men, a strong supporter of the designer.

Like every independent designer in the luxury market, Browne’s business is feeling the effects of the retail slowdown. A backer could inject the capital required to broaden the scope of his business, which was founded on suits with shrunken proportions.

Browne has been open to potential backers for about three years. He has had discussions with about five suitors in that period, including Japanese distributors who were deemed unsuitable because the designer wants to maintain control of his distributors in that key market, according to Miki Higasa, Browne’s spokeswoman.

The latest potential backer is New York-based Individualized Apparel Group, whose Oxxford Clothes, Gitman Bros. and Holland & Sherry divisions already produce suits, shirts and fabrics for Thom Browne. The two parties have talked, but no terms have been broached and they are nowhere near a deal, according to Higasa.

“We have a great relationship with IAG on the production side, and that will continue. Never say never, but at this point I’m just looking forward to continuing our production relationship,” said Browne.

Browne is unwilling to sell a majority stake in the eight-year-old business.

“The right partner understands what the collection is and what the potential of the business is. I don’t want to partner with the wrong person, because I want the partnership to be forever, with someone who has the same vision for the business as I do,” Browne said.