BROWNE ON BROWN
Designer Thom Browne — whose distinctive suits and visionary fashion shows bring the art of tailoring to fanatical heights — talks to Daniel Silver and Steven Cox, the duo behind the eccentric world of label Duckie Brown, who have lately taken on the task of re-designing the Perris Ellis brand.
“The thing about Thom Browne is that it is very constant. You know what it looks like. I think that we are finally getting to what a Duckie Brown looks like, and I think that is the most important thing.”
Man of the World invited these fashion intellectuals to exchange ideas about their varied — and sometimes “simple” — inspirations.
D.B: It’s very rare that designers get to sit down and talk to other designers. I thought to myself: do you have a question you have always wanted to ask Thom that you’ve never asked?
T.B: Well, I don’t think there needs to be a specific question… We’ve gotten to know each other, and of course I think we connected because we approach design very differently from most. And specifically because we are doing it in New York, in a place that doesn’t really accept what we do sometimes. We also have projects that we do outside our own collections that are more commercially thought out from the start.
D.B: Absolutely. I agree. I feel so fortunate that we’ve figured out a way to sustain Duckie Brown — to do what we love to do — through all our other endeavors. It seems to me that both our labels have been able to figure that out up until this point, which is kind of an amazing feat. We just designed a shoe for Florsheim. We based the concept loosely on what Chanel would do if they had a men’s line of shoes. I went to the Coco Chanel apartment in Paris and her ideas were kind of simplistic: the Chanel bottle came from a door-latch on the Chinese armoire. That was the shape of the bottle. The Chanel No. 5 was the fifth scent that she smelled. Chanel No. 19 was her birthday. People think that we are much more complicated than we are. It’s been really interesting to watch the evolution of the Thom Browne label. I have always thought that the thing about Thom Browne that’s really good is that it is very constant. You know what it looks like. I think that we are finally getting to what a Duckie Brown looks like, and I think that is the most important thing.
T.B: Thank you, thank you.
D.B: How do you start?
T.B: Start what?
D.B: A collection?
T.B: Something I see, something out on the street, or a movie that I watch…
D.B: Yes, it’s that simple. It’s exactly the same as us. It’s one idea that you kind of latch onto and perhaps shift around…
T.B: And sometimes the show comes at the beginning, or the idea of the show comes along the way, or sometimes the concept of the show comes at the very end. It all depends. I always want to put some type of story to the collection, or I want to entertain the people that come in. I try to think of some type of storyline.
D.B: It’s interesting because that’s not on our radar. The story is the collection that we designed, and it’s about finding the right space again and just tweaking that space. There is no theatrics attached to it really.
T.B: I love the theatrics. I mean: I love a show. To me, the shows are equally as important as the clothing itself. By the time the collection is finished, I am bored with it. So, I know I need something to almost give it a life for myself too. People then leave with an impression of not just a collection, but they remember the show… And that’s really important to me.
D.B: I think for us it’s different because we’re constantly talking about what are we doing. I have always said it’s so much easier because we’re a duo so the conversation is endless.
“People think that we are much more complicated than we are. It’s been really interesting to watch the evolution of the Thom Browne label”.
We really do think about everything we’re doing constantly. I am not giving myself enough justice when I say, “I’m thinking about the Florsheim shoes,” I am thinking about them all the time. I am thinking about Perry Ellis all the time. I wouldn’t say we’re at capacity, but we’re close to capacity of what we can actually do season to season. But with the addition of Perry, it’s — we’re dancing almost as fast as we can. Having said that, we’ve never taken off as much time as we have lately in the last year and a half or two years, but it’s also a function of being so busy.
T.B: I try to take off whenever I can. I mean, as you guys know, finding time is the hardest. When I travel for work, I try to mix in as much as I can. I don’t know. I find it hard to have free time. We are the fortunate ones, getting to do this: provoke new ideas and make people sit up.