Thom Browne in Conversation with Stefano Tonchi on Uniforms and Uniformity

Designer Thom Browne loves the idea of uniformity, both in his personal style and in his design aesthetic.

“The idea of uniformity for me is an idea that I feel speaks to power and individuality,” said Browne, who was at FIT November 9 in conversation with W editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi, as part of The Museum at FIT’s Fashion Culture public programming series and in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition Uniformity.

“That surprises some people when you say there is individuality in a uniform,” Browne continued.  “It comes from someone who is willing to adopt a uniform for themselves that really makes them a real true individual, something personal to them and very real, and that’s what my uniform has been from the beginning.”20161109_05

Browne, who designs women’s wear as well as menswear, feels that the uniformity idea applies to women as much as to men. “I think it’s actually more powerful for the women’s world….There is something so powerful about someone who has really found their own style and they stick to it day to day as opposed to thinking they might want to change.”

Uniformity affects the way Browne designs his collections. He noted that his collections are designed from head to toe at the beginning and that uniformity is very important. “The story I’m telling will be exactly the story I want people to see because of how militant I am.”

But, Tonchi pointed out, “A uniform doesn’t become uniformity because each piece very often in your collection is unique.”

Tonchi asked Browne about the role of innovation and technology in his work. “I think you always have to look for what’s happening next, especially when you base a collection in classic ideas,” Browne replied. “You have to make sure that you introduce them in ways that are relevant because there’s nothing worse than doing something classic and it’s still classic and there’s no reason for people to see it over again.”

Browne’s gray flannel and white cotton pique suit is a brilliant example of blending old and new. Abiding by conventional aesthetics while embracing contemporary elements like reconstruction, this New York-based tailor has been pushing the perimeters of male dressing since the late 1990s. Beginning with the concept of deconstruction — or taking garments apart to reveal their inner structure — reconstruction is a process that reconfigures those disassembled parts in new ways. Browne took apart the three-piece suit by removing the arms of the jacket and placing them on the waistcoat, or vest.

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