Seclusion of pandemic works for designer Thom Browne


COVID-19 necessitated most fashion designers to take the virtual route in showing their 2021 fall winter collections at New York Fashion Week in February. But fashion designer Thom Browne said he believes the pivot necessitated by the pandemic has actually been a good thing for the fashion industry.

Designer Thom Brown.

And, in a way, Browne noted in a webinar conversation with Tim Blanks of Business of Fashion, the seclusion forced upon him by the pandemic actually has been good for his feeding own creative spark.

Browne is a former CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year and a GQ Designer of the Year. His designs are recognized by museums around the world including the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

In a conversation with Blanks, Browne noted, “People tend to think of fashion as a commercial entity.”

But over the past year, due to COVID-19, Browne said, “People had to be creative.”

From Thom Browne’s Spring 2021 collection. RUNWAY360

And consumers have responded to the creative efforts of designers, said Browne, who is known for his men’s and women’s wear. “People want pure creativity and want to be inspired.”

During the pandemic, said Browne. “People couldn’t move around… It forced people to create differently or be inspired differently.”

However, in his own particular case, Browne said he was right at home at the current situation, staying at home and creating.

“I wasn’t missing anything,” said the designer. “It was easy to be home, thinking of my ‘sophomoric ideas.'”

The seclusion forced upon Browne by COVID-19, though, helped push his creativity forward, he explained.

“I do find it most interesting to challenge myself,” said Browne. “I want original ideas. I don’t want any fashion references… I want something new.”

From Thom Browne’s Spring 2021 collection. RUNWAY360

“It’s not easy,” said Browne of this creative approach. “But it’s a lot more interesting and a lot more fulfilling for everyone.”

Browne said he grew up in a very classic Middle America upbringing. But, internally, he said, “so much of me wanted to get out…”

Browne said he admits he is a bit of the black sheep in his family. His siblings have all taken on careers as doctors and lawyers.

However, although he admits to being the family black sheep, Browne said, “I was never bad.”

But, Browne added, “But there always something in me that wanted to be different.”

“I like to do things not so ordinary… That was one of the biggest motivations… I have zero interest in doing what others do,” the designer said.

“I love repetition and the monotony of repetition,” said Browne, whose spring collection featured nothing but variations on white tailored suits. “Maybe that came from my Catholic upbringing.”

But even though he favors repetition, Browne said, “I try to make it interesting.”