Designer Thom Browne Explains the Virtues of Imperfection

“I never liked things to be too perfect. I like them to be perfectly made.”

Fashion
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Known best for his too-tight suits, and upending the slow, downward trend to fast, casual fashion, Thom Browne has built his reputation on reinterpreting traditional menswear just enough to make it simultaneously and paradoxically conservative yet rebellious. Drawing from influences such as John F. Kennedy and Cary Grant in North by Northwest, his look has received widespread adoration from the CFDA, which granted him their Menswear Designer of the Year award twice, as well as Michelle Obama, who wore his design to President Obama’s second inauguration. John Heilpern of Vanity Fair recently interviewed the designer on the nature of his suit designs and the importance of imperfection, as well as revealing some of Browne’s nuggets of wisdom in the process. Read an excerpt below and find the full feature here.

A creature of habit, he orders the same simple lunch every time: poached salmon, water, and, later, an espresso. He’s an intriguing paradox: both cutting-edge and traditionalist, a revolutionary designer who’s also conservative. Seated at his lunch table, he looked pretty conventional from the waist up.

His re-invention of the staple men’s suit began in earnest more than a decade ago in radical rebuke to what Guy Trebay of The**New York Times calls “the late 20th century slob-fest” of casual Fridays. “I thought the worst thing you could ever do to a guy was to tell him he could go to work casually,” he explained. “I like the idea of something that’s classic and a uniform—but it’s really important not to make it boring.”

“Even so,” I said, “I’m not sure your suit would suit me.”

“It isn’t for everyone,” he replied in his gentlemanly way. “I recognize that. I mean, each to his own.”

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