Thom Browne 20th anniversary


Text by Chiara Belardi

Phaidon presents the publication of the first Thom Browne’s monograph. The volume offers a visual journey through the American designer’s revolutionary creations, capturing the essence of his creative process.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the brand’s founding, a comprehensive monograph on Thom Browne is published by Phaidon. Engaging words by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and the publication’s creative director, introduce the work in the practicality context by carefully presenting the 200 photographs by British artist Johnny Dufort. Designed by Amsterdam-based graphic designer Irma Boom, the book itself is a small work of art curated in every single detail. Thom Browne is widely recognized for modernizing and conceptualizing the uniform as dress and for staging fantastical worlds at his fashion shows. After bringing his version of the Cinderella fairy tale to life last October at the spring summer 2023 runway show, on the 20th anniversary of his fashion house the American designer returned to the elegant surroundings of the Palais Garnier in Paris to present what was his first Haute Couture show. Browne presented an incredible fairy-tale work, a poetic and theatrical spectacle. In all his dedication to fashion and the ways to present it in unprecedented ideas, Thom Browne puts on real surrealist shows.

“I have always found fascinating playing with proportions, and in general to take what we are familiar with and propose it in a new light. That’s my DNA. The intent is to challenge pre-existing norms and customs, and to remember that we are free to propose new ones.” 

– Thom Browne 

Thom Browne, Spring/Summer 2010 Menswear. Courtesy Dan and Corina Lecca (page 347, centre left)
Thom Browne. Introduction by Andrew Bolton. Phaidon.

Being able to play with fashion as Thom Brown does, while remaining composed and elegant, exemplifies a punk spirit that mocks all those power structures in which the fashion world itself is trapped. The brand is at the forefront of trying to actually create something that transcends the system itself, as if it were a living art. It is clear that in Brown’s collections the goal is always to provoke meaningful conversation about the big issues of today, not just to capture attention. For example, the uniform, often associated with power structures, is increasingly modernized to be presented as a tool that, conversely, retaliates and reacts to its own limitations. In its totality, a uniform might be frightening because it somehow represents something beyond oneself: clothes are important to the designer, but the world around them, how they are perceived, and how they represent our idea of individuals matters more. The brand was initially celebrated for its distinctive approach to men’s tailoring since 2003, but Browne has since expanded the collections to include womenswear, children’s wear, and accessories. He is known for his imaginative and highly conceptual runway presentations, such as the pigeon-men from whose huge blazers sprouted feather details at hip height, which attracted global attention for their thought-provoking themes and dramatic settings.

Thom Browne, Opera coat, Spring/Summer 2023 womenswear. Photography by Johnny Dufort (page 328) light grey silk taffeta pieced with signature white four-bar.

“In the beginning I started with something I wanted to wear myself, it was easy to create the first gray suit because I was basically making it just for me.” 

– Thom Browne

Thom Browne, Ensemble, Spring/Summer 2012 womenswear. Photography by Johnny Dufort (page 92).
Thom Browne. Introduction by Andrew Bolton. Phaidon.
Thom Browne, Ensemble, Spring/Summer 2019 womenswear. Photography by Johnny Dufort.

This monograph, which seeks to present an entire imagery, is complicit with the discerning eye of photographer Johnny Dufort, who presents rare, never-before-seen photographs in his visionary way. The approach on the digital raw and surrealist gives the monograph images perfectly in line with the designer’s point of view, effectively creating a creative duo capable of shaping a certain undone glamour. The book is visually rich with tableaus of show installations that further illustrate Browne’s philosophy and evolution. It is published with a hardcover – enclosing  in a clamshell box – including more than 40 pages of translucent vellum with the brand’s four signature stripes and also features a Thom Browne grosgrain ribbon inside.

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