Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 11/08/2012

Thom Browne is putting down roots in Tokyo.

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The designer will open his first flagship outside the U.S., a 4,500-square-foot store in the Minami-Aoyama district of Tokyo, in mid-March.

The store, whose neighbors will include Prada, Comme des Garçons, Undercover and Acne, will sell the brand’s full men’s and women’s collections and will include a special area for made-to-measure. The split-level store will be designed based on Browne’s concepts and ideas by the interior design firm of Wonderwall, led by Masamichi Katayama, who worked on Colette in Paris as well as several other high-profile retail stores and galleries.

“We’re really excited about the store both as a way to boost an already strong business in Asia and as an image statement,” Browne said Wednesday from Milan, where he was working on the Moncler Gamme Bleu collection that will be shown in January.

He said the design will be similar to the 2,500-square-foot Thom Browne store in TriBeCa in New York. “This will be a very significant flagship store and we wanted it to stand out and be important in the Toyko retail community,” the designer said.

He said Minami-Aoyama is one of the city’s higher-end retail districts and home to many of the city’s “cooler” brands, which is why he opted to open the store in that area.

He said the store will be operated in the same manner as the rest of the business, as a joint venture with Cross Co., the Japanese firm that bought a majority stake in the business three years ago.

Cross, which operates retail stores across Asia, will run the store, but the merchandise selection and the look of the store will be chosen by Browne. He and Cross will work together on staffing the unit. “This is a way to move the business forward,” he said.

This may be just the beginning of Browne’s retail presence in Asia. “Long-term, we’re hoping for a lot of stores,” Browne said, “but we’re just focusing on this one for now.”

The Thom Browne collection is also carried at Isetan department stores, Dover Street Market on the Ginza, United Arrows and Hankyu in Japan. It is also sold in Seoul and Hong Kong at Joyce and I.T, along with some smaller boutiques.

Since Cross purchased its stake in the brand, giving Browne the financial breathing room he needed to expand his label, he has launched a capsule collection called Thom Grey that is exclusive to Barneys New York’s Co-op stores in the States. It is also carried at Harrods, the Galleria in Seoul and I.T in Hong Kong and Beijing. Since being introduced this fall, Browne said the line is “selling really well and we’re thinking how to move it forward.”

In addition to his signature collection, Thom Grey and Moncler Gamme Bleu, Browne designs the Black Fleece collection for Brooks Brothers. There are two freestanding Black Fleece stores in the U.S., in New York and San Francisco, and Brooks is looking for an additional location in Miami.