Later, Brown went over the show’s score with his musical director. In addition to the “Visage” song, the playlist also includes melancholy numbers from Björk and David Bowie and two arias from the opera “Dido and Aeneas.” Brown likes to have his models walk slowly. Most fashion shows last no longer than fifteen minutes; Browne’s shows often last more than thirty. Critics sometimes complain about this, saying, “But I, you know what? I spent a lot of money on this. You’re all going to sit back and enjoy it.”
The musical director lined up the cooing of freight trains, the clanking of vintage clocks and the chorus of cooing pigeons. “Hey, I like to be cheesy sometimes,” Brown said. He had envisioned sprinkling the stage at the Palais Garnier with hand-felt pigeon poop—“They would have to be embroidered by Lesage,” Brown said, citing the legendary French embroidery atelier—but ran out of time.
it is Go and try it One hour in France. A publicist created a pairing that combined the glamorous and the mundane: a bottle of Dom Pérignon and a bag of plain potato chips. He poured champagne into goblets—Brown hated flutes—and poured the chips onto paper plates. Brown said the idea for the group came from Marilyn Monroe’s character in “The Seven Year Itch.” “fries always Pair it with champagne,” he added, reaching for a plate.
Every Thom Browne piece is embellished with red, white and blue striped grosgrain ribbon, whether it’s a pull tab that hangs from the back of a collar or a ring that wraps around a shirt arm. It’s a throwback to the cheap ribbon necklaces that adorned Brown’s athletic medals during her competitive swimming days. Brown, the fourth of seven siblings from a close-knit Irish-Italian family, was up at 4 a.m. every school day. yes. training.His sister Jeanmarie Wolfe recalled: “We all held each other accountable, we were all very competitive, but we knew Tom was just it. We never worried about him. He always followed through. (Today, Wolfe is an attorney in Allentown and wears head-to-toe Thom Browne to work nearly every day.) As a teenager, Brown became an All-American swimmer and was recruited to the Division I team at the University of Notre Dame. “I was “Growing up wearing Speedo,” he recalls when we meet in late July at Sant Ambroeus, an Italian café on New York’s Madison Avenue. “This regimen has always been a part of my life. I love the organization and discipline of it. Brown remains a creature of habit. Since he and Bolton moved to Sutton Place in the Far East End in 2021, he has gone to Sant Ambroeus every morning to pick up a takeaway breakfast — a sugar croissant and an espresso. That day, He agreed to dine on a red leather banquette. “This is new to me,” he said. His order remained the same.
Brown’s father, James, was a lawyer and accountant who worked at a financial services company and wore Brooks Brothers suits to the office. His mother, Bernice, who met James in law school, stayed home with her children and then, at the age of fifty, passed the bar a second time and became a county attorney. Brown thought he would follow a traditional corporate path. He graduated from college with a business degree and got a consulting job in New York City, but he hated the job and quit within a year. Soon after, a friend, the British interior designer Paul Fortune, offered to let Brown stay in a hotel at his home in Los Angeles. Brown accepted his offer and ended up living in Los Angeles for six years.
Fortune, who died in 2020, was known for his high-profile clients — Sofia Coppola, Marc Jacobs, Erin Getty — as well as his aristocratic style. Like Brown, he was gay and attended Catholic schools. “He knew everybody,” Brown recalled. “And he had really good taste. It was inspiring to have him around and see how you create your own life.” Two years later, Brown moved into his own place in Los Feliz. Many stories about Brown say he was a “struggling actor” in his twenties, but when I bring that up, he laughs. He briefly studied with a drama coach and appeared in a few television commercials. But he supported himself primarily as a production assistant and script reader. Brown said one souvenir of his short acting career was his British name. He started using Thom because there was already a Tom Browne in the Screen Actors Guild.
Since entering the corporate world, Brown has loved wearing Brooks Brothers suits, just like his father. But in Los Angeles, he began to develop a more unique personal style. He would scour vintage stores for classic men’s clothing, then have it altered at the local dry cleaners, raising the hems and shortening the sleeves. When asked about the inspiration for the look, Brown cited the memory of John F. Kennedy’s slim suits. But in reality, Kennedy often wore baggy sack jackets and pants with torn shoelaces. The design “was just an idea in my head and I had to bring it to life,” Brown said. He told me that he likes to “drive people crazy” with his little suits, especially in laid-back Los Angeles. He added, “I can’t stand things that are very ordinary. I’m tired of ordinary things.”
In 1997, he moved back to New York—“I had no money, which was terrible,” he told me—and, through a friend, found a job in sales at Giorgio Armani’s wholesale showroom Assistant’s job. Armani revamped the power suit in the ’80s with loose, flowing silhouettes, and even though the aesthetic didn’t suit Brown’s personal taste, he quickly became a top salesman. Around the same time, he became friends with designer Ralph Lauren’s chief of staff and eventually met Lauren, who was looking for a new designer to develop menswear for his mid-level workwear brand, Club Monaco. Despite Brown’s lack of training, Lauren hired him for the job. Brown tried to bring his own ideas to the brand — micro-cardigans, high-water pants — but “it just wasn’t right for them,” he recalls. “I couldn’t give up that stuff. But I really, really loved it, so I thought I should do it myself.”
Brown had no training in sewing. To prototype suits for his line, he needed to work with an experienced tailor, but it was difficult to find one willing to work with his bizarre specifications. After hitting an impasse with a master tailor in Brooklyn, Brown contacted Rocco Ciccarelli, an old-school suitmaker in Queens, who agreed to make five sample suits (and continued to serve as Brown’s head tailor until his retirement in 2015). In 2001, at the age of thirty-five, Brown started a custom-making company in his one-bedroom apartment. He served as his own model, walking around town in sample suits. He recalled that when he asked friends to buy them, “their response was, ‘Why would we buy something that didn’t look right? you? “
Historically, innovation in bespoke menswear has occurred in what one reviewer called to me “infinitely tiny tweaks.” But by the turn of the century, with the rise of casual workwear, most men no longer needed to buy a suit.The challenge is to get them think To buy one, designers are trying increasingly bold ideas. Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane of Dior Homme both offer stylish black suits that make the wearer look like an indie rocker. During his tenure at Gucci, Tom Ford introduced high-waisted velvet suits in sexy jewel tones. Brown’s tapered design draws on American norms of conformity—the “man in the gray flannel suit” trope—but also literally undermines them. The result is something naughty and a little kinky: all that male cleavage is on display. In the fashion world, Brown was initially considered an interesting fringe artist. “it is so small and so Customized and so Weird,” recalls veteran British fashion critic Tim Blanks. “If someone had told me that in twenty years this would be a $500 million business, I would have laughed. “
Browne gained an important ally when a friend introduced her to brand strategist Miki Higasa, who previously worked at Rei Kawakubo’s avant-garde fashion house Comme des Garçons. Higasa has seen how, through repetition and persistence, designers can make the most challenging ideas understandable to the public. In 2003, she convinced Browne to launch a limited-edition ready-to-wear line, and soon after, the factory moved to a small storefront in the Meatpacking District. Higasa invited buyers to visit, including Sarah Andelman of the then-trend-setting Parisian boutique Colette, who ordered Browne’s heavy oxford shirts and then, she recalls, “had to keep reordering them.” A buyer from Bergdorf Goodman agreed to sell the collection. “They wanted to put it on the tailoring floor, not on the third floor in the fashion district,” Hikasa recalls. “We said, ‘This is not for traditional people.’ “
In 2005, following Browne’s first men’s fashion show in New York, David Bowie walked into the store. Brown recalled asking for a suit “exactly like the one I was wearing, with no changes.” Bowie later wore it during a televised concert at Radio City Music Hall. Brown’s look has since blended into the mainstream. The rows and rows of high-waist pants in Gap stores owe their work to his work, as do the slim-cut Ludlow suits ubiquitous at J. Crew.Anna Wintour, Editor Fashion (and global chief content officer at Condé Nast, parent company of Condé Nast new yorker), works closely with Bolton as Met Gala co-chair and considers the couple her good friends. Of the Browne silhouette, she told me, “Now we think of it as definitely part of the fashion lexicon. It revolutionized the way we look at things.” A Brown University staff member recalled being struck down the street in a gray dress. When he was working, construction workers often laughed at him. Nowadays, they just yell, “Hey, beautiful Thom Browne!”
One of Brown’s publicists sent me a formal invitation to the show, printed on card stock as thick as a Vassar cookie and accompanied by a small square insert that said “Request.” . . Please wear your best gray clothes. (Brown favors ovals and prefers the British spelling of “gray.”) On the day of the event, the sky above the facade of the Palais Garnier School of Fine Arts was a mottled, hazy apricot. Armored guards were stationed amid protests over police shootings. around the building. At the back door, I met one of Browne’s top publicists, Jonathon Zadrzynski (nicknamed JZ), a skinny redhead wearing a full Thom Browne suit. I asked him if he had been roasted in the hot summer Burnt, he shrugged. “We’re used to it,” he said.
Brown is in an airy rehearsal room with ornate crown molding and softly glowing globe lights. He stood quietly, watching two women put the finishing touches on an ivory “gargoyle” gown hanging from a canvas dress. There are still two hours until show time.