Thom Browne Interview
Thom Browne is the perfect avatar and ambassador for his brand. Perennially and impeccably dressed in one of his own grey suits (which he rocks with shorts in warmer months), he's rarely spotted in anything else. The influential designer has left his mark on menswear, and with New Concepts 009 he furthers his vision with Nordstrom.
With so many designer collaborations out there, why do you think this Nordstrom pairing is special?
I have to say, I feel like collaborations are getting a little overdone, and the only times I ever even entertain the idea of collaboration is if it's something that's really interesting to me—and I think, in turn, interesting to the customer. So, for me it stands out in that it really is not a traditional collaboration; it's a collaboration at a level that is a lot more intellectual and not purely commercial. The approach to this collaboration is done well and intelligently. It really elevates the collections within Nordstrom stores.
Why were you interested in collaborating with Nordstrom?
Because of the relationship that we've had with Nordstrom over the last couple of seasons, and I think New Concepts is interesting. I have personally seen [the shops] in my neighborhood because I live right off Columbus Circle. That's what introduced me to the project. And then it was really just the conversations between ourselves and your team to reintroduce Thom Browne to the Nordstrom customer.
Tell us about the locker room motif in the campaign and shop design, where it seems that the customer is walking into a gym's changing area.
I reference sports so much. I like to play with men's world iconography, and I think all of us have grown up—either at school or with sports—in some way being associated at some time in a locker room. So, I think there's a familiarity there. And then also the combination of this true fashion collaboration with this very understandable locker room idea was a really good mix of stories to tell the guys.
Locker rooms are also interesting as they bring all sorts of different guys together.
Yeah. They're very democratic.
You were a competitive tennis player and a varsity swimmer at Notre Dame—tell us about your personal relationship with sports.
Sports have always been important to me, so it's something that I like to reference because I think people see an authenticity. But the most important thing is that I referenced it in a very nonliteral way, because I feel like when you see a reference too literally it becomes very mundane. So, I think that's the reason why it works. I think people see my reference of sports in very different ways and nontraditional.
I don't swim as much now; I run. It's just something that's very personal to me.
Thom Browne the brand really stands out because there is such a dichotomy to it. There is this part that's super traditional—the cardigans and suiting with that cut no one else can do. It's playing with conservative tropes and uniform. And then there's the other part that's just all about fantasy. It's all about extremes.
Everything is based in classicism and playing with classic ideas and reintroducing them in sometimes easier ways, but then also in hugely conceptual ways—and I think that is what the collection is all about. In a way with this collaboration, what you see in the locker room is these classic ideas and then you see it on these young guys, really living it and playing with it. And taking clothing and actually really using it is something that's also very important. Taking really well-made, high-quality clothing and really wearing it and being very real. There's something very real about what I do, and that's what I want people to see. But the most important thing is that you see the classic side of what I do. Just what you said, the conceptual side is equally as important.
Cool. Besides the collaboration, we're also going to be selling in store the Thom Browne "uniform": the grey suit. Can you talk a bit about what that is?
The uniform is based in classic tailoring. The collection started from that uniform idea—the idea of uniformity is very interesting, and it's at the core of what I do. There's so much personality within the uniformity, and you see it in so many of my collections. Taking that classic uniform, but with the play in proportion, turns it into something not as understandable in a way for people. And I think that is what really creates the conversation around the selection.
Specifically with the Nordstrom exclusives, are there any pieces that you're particularly excited about?
Well, I think the whole collection really stands out in a way that it represents taking classic ideas, like red stripes, and that idea being actually created in different ways: It's not just in a tie, it's in woven fabrics. So, it's really taking ideas and classic ideas and creating them in different ways for this customer, which I think is really strong.
Also, the price points are accessible.
I never really design into price points, but we were conscious in creating a collection that people could buy without compromising any bit of quality and it's still made the same way as the rest.
The key chain and other items featuring your dog, Hector, quite stand out.
Hector was born four years ago. He's in the office every day, so he's part of the company. He lightens everybody's day. He's important for the collections because everybody lives with him every day.
Besides Hector, an important aspect of your company is made-to-measure.
I think the most important thing with the collaboration is that people see everything that I do. So, you see the specific capsule collection, which is exclusive to the store, but then you also see the classic tailoring. Especially since it's an introduction to a lot of your customers, it was important for me that they saw the full breadth.