The New Slim: Thom Browne to Sell Lower-Priced Lines

Thom Browne is establishing two new ranges that will be priced 30 to 40 percent lower than his fashion-forward runway offerings.

Thom Browne is establishing two new ranges that will be priced 30 to 40 percent lower than his fashion-forward runway offerings, making him the latest men’s designer to adopt a strategic focus on lower prices and repositioned staples — as Tim Hamilton, Duckie Brown and others have also done recently.

This story first appeared in the September 3, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The new Thom Browne ranges, launching for spring 2010, do not have distinct labels but are known unofficially as Thom Browne “classics” and Thom Browne “red/white/blue.” Initiating with a few styles, they are expected to grow to 50 percent of the collection and broaden the market for the brand.

Classics includes carryovers such as Browne’s signature gray wool suit and white cotton oxford, as well as a navy coat with gold buttons, khaki trousers in spring and gray wool trousers in fall. Red/white/blue consists of preppy styles far less outré than Browne’s runway fare, which has been known for extreme proportions, women’s wear influences and fetishy details. The range includes foul-weather outerwear, blazers, trousers, shirts, cardigans, crewnecks and polos. T-shirts and swim trunks will be offered for summer.

“The philosophy and the make of the collection will be the same, but just broader,” Browne said. “It will still be for that Thom Browne guy, but now that guy will have things to wear everyday for every occasion.”

The runway portion of the collection will remain at current prices.

“As designers grow and change, they always want to move forward with their design aesthetic. But to do that without losing customers, sometimes you have to segment a portion of your line that can exist all the time,” said Tommy Fazio, men’s fashion director of Neiman Marcus Group and Bergdorf Goodman. “The Thom Browne white oxford should never leave his collection.”

Another example of such a perennial is Tim Hamilton’s cashmere thermal sweater, said Fazio. Last season Hamilton launched a line called Redux in order to reissue his bestsellers, priced 30 percent below his seasonal collection.

“Tim Hamilton really wanted to push forward into a modern designer sensibility whereas he was steeped in American tradition. He can go in that direction and gain a new customer with that, but Redux is basically the business we have at Bergdorf Goodman,” said Fazio.

In its second season, Redux prices have come down further. Jeans for spring are $250, down from $375. Button-downs are $230, down from $295. And T-shirts are less than $100.

Meanwhile, Duckie Brown has collaborated on a new contemporary-priced basics line with Odin, the New York boutique.

“Let’s do clothes that everyone wants,” said Duckie Brown’s Daniel Silver. “It’s a response to what’s happening now. If you’re not responding to your customers’ wants and needs you become archaic very quickly. You have to keep the shark moving.” The line is called Edward, and the designers said they spent a lot of energy perfecting the fit.

“It’s always about the fit. If the fit is right, men respond,” said Duckie Brown’s Steven Cox.

Band of Outsiders is launching a line of slim polo shirts bearing the new label “This is not a polo shirt.” The polos, which will be delivered year round, have Band of Outsiders’ retro-preppy sensibility. But at $135 to $175, they are more accessible than the brand’s button-down shirts, which are in the $215 to $300 range, and more in keeping with the casual leanings of these times.

In the progressive market, Acne is launching Acne Pop Classics and YMC is introducing YMC Basic, which are just what they sound like.

Of course, some designers have built their brands entirely upon the notion of “perfect” basics. This summer, Tony Melillo reissued his judo pants exclusively for Scoop per the retailer’s request. The judo pants had a celebrity following in the Nineties (Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt) and put Melillo on the map. But he had not done them since 1998.

“In these times it is smart for me, the little guy, to go back to my roots,” said Melillo. Several months ago he created an exclusive T-shirt program for Barneys New York. “Ts are the other idea that really sell for me. Why bother adding all these new things when this is what people want? Simon Cowell started buying them at Barneys and they ran out of his size, so now I am making 200 Ts for him as a special order. Things like this add up.”