Taking inspiration from nostalgic American references like J.F.K. and old Sears catalogs, Thom Browne started by designing his miniproportioned suit, featuring tailored shorts, and has created a thriving fashion label around it. "I wanted to present an alternative to existing bespoke ideas," says Browne, who won the Council of Fashion Designers of America's award for menswear in 2006 and, at 42, is the most established of the new generation.
A former actor who worked at Giorgio Armani's showroom in New York in 1998 and as a merchandiser at Club Monaco, Browne opened a bespoke tailoring shop in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood in 2001. He introduced ready-to-wear in 2004 to much acclaim, and his collection now includes a full range of slim suits, coats, shirts and ties that could appear on Mad Men, AMC's hit series about a 1960s ad agency. "I make very traditional, old-school clothing. The clothes are timeless," says Browne, who also designs Black Fleece, a line for Brooks Brothers.
His suitsmade of classic woolens with full-chest canvasesare hand-cut in a Long Island City factory. He often juxtaposes traditional technique with dramatic capes and feathered wings. "People said, 'It's not what everybody's doing,'" he says. "But I had no interest in being just another designer. I wanted people to respond, negatively or positively."
Positive it is. Thom Browne is now a substantial business with 28 accounts worldwide. But the designer prefers to speak in creative terms. "I want to have a business because I love doing it. To make people think something interesting," he says. "How big that is, I don't know. I just like to make clothes."