thom browne on his new capsule collection for mr porter
Thom Browne was in London Town last week, hosting a dinner at Soho’s legendary L’Escargot (former haunt of everyone from Elton John to Little Richard), then welcoming i-D to Claridge’s for a chat about his new capsule collection, exclusive to Mr...
The nine-piece collection for autumn/winter 14 includes a sport jacket, Chesterfield overcoat, cropped trousers and contrast brogue boots, all in his signature traditional grey fabrics, with the tri-colour locker loops. It's the commercial arm of his spectacular grey-carpeted woodland catwalk show, with its Stephen Jones animal headgear and overblown silhouettes. i-D found out about the battle between the conceptual and the commercial, his insistence that he uses colour and his terrible temper tantrums on the tennis court.
Your capsule collection is less conceptual than your catwalk work. Can you talk about the differences?
People see my shows and they always see how I can conceptually design. They leave the shows and if they don't come to the show rooms, they wonder how any of this ever sells.
Your shows always cause a stir. Who do you work with on them?
I've been working with show producer Etienne Russo, but he just handles the logistics. I really don't let anybody get involved. I know exactly what I want. The show's always really important for the collection and being able to tell a story for that season and to make the more classic part of what I do more interesting.
It's strange that the average person still doesn't understand the purpose of a fashion show and likes to ridicule, or dismiss them.
You would think that people would understand that. I think it's a ridiculous question, when people leave a show and say, "Who's going to wear that?"
It's "crazy" shows like yours that people use as an example when they're fashion bashing, isn't it?
Well I've been on the "don't" list a lot!
That must be so infuriating. How old were you when you first started designing?
That was in 1998, so I wasn't young, which made it easier because I wasn't wrapped up in the world of having to be cool or to be part of a trend. I was just making things that were interesting to me.
You grew up in Pennsylvania, but now you live in NYC. Are you a diehard New Yorker now?
I love New York, but I like getting out of New York. I find it hard to work there sometimes. Some people use it for inspiration. It's not really inspiring to me - it's home. The second I get in my car and drive out the city, my mind opens up.
Tell us about your love of grey.
My collections usually start with grey. I've been doing colour from the beginning, but I think sometimes people don't want to see it! Every collection is different in how I approach colour.
As a designer, what do you think of first: volume, fabric, colour, print? Or does it vary?
Sometimes one is more important than the other. Proportion for me is very important because that's how I started. Colour, I think is probably the least important a lot of the times. Fabric development is really important. It all depends on different seasons.
You worked with Stephen Jones on the show hats. How was that?
He's so generous and so good at what he does. I have to think of excuses, so that we can work together. Now I work with him on women's too. He's so confident at how good he is.
Did you study tailoring at all?
I went to the school of Rocco Ciccarelli. Rocco is the tailor I've been working with from the beginning. He's a Roman tailor who's lived in the States since the '50s. I really think he's one of the best tailors in the world.
I hear you were an avid swimmer growing up. Are you still?
I haven't swum since college. I vowed never to get in a pool again.
After 12 years of six to seven hours a day, waking up at 5am until I was 21 or 22.
That's like me and tennis. I played so much that when I was 18, I just stopped. But I'm getting back into it.
Is it frustrating getting back? Because I play tennis too. When you're older and you're not as good.
Actually, I think I'm better than I was, because I'm calmer.
I really don't have a bad temper, but I do if you put me on a tennis court! My parents stopped coming to matches because I was so bad. People don't believe me when I say it.It did really affect how I played. I would get so frustrated. I used to break so many rackets. I remember after one match, I beat the kid and he came up to the net and said, "I didn't deserve that." So swimming was better for me!
Thom Browne's Capsule Collection is available exclusively at Mrporter.com
Text Stuart Brumfitt