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Thom Browne Is the New Black

Thom Browne
When Thom Browne founded his namesake brand in 2001, his shrunken wool suit—in medium gray—was the foundation of his brand, and it remains so today. Photo: Nina Westervelt/WWD/Getty Images
Lauren Sherman
February 15, 2024

American designers who came up in the 2000s aspired to a certain way of life. This was a time of rapid industry consolidation and globalization, fueled by the success of Tom Ford at Gucci, Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, and John Galliano at Dior, with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel as a guiding light. For the young designers following in their footsteps, the goals were simple: find a good investor, land a creative director gig at your heritage brand of choice, and become rich and famous. But they were nearly impossible to achieve. If the American fashion industry was one giant Y Combinator, I swear the success rate would be even lower than it is in the tech world.

Thom Browne, though: He managed to land the proverbial house with the white picket fence and three kids running around. When Browne founded his namesake brand in 2001, his shrunken wool suit—in medium gray—was the foundation of his brand, and it remains so today. While many of his peers had great fun hogging the spotlight, Browne was operating, often quietly, off to the side. He participated in the fashion circus at times, but he refused to adjust his big idea to the whims of the market. In the end, the steadfast approach won out. In 2018, Sandbridge Capital, the investment fund backed by Domenico De Sole and Tommy Hilfiger, sold their stake in the Thom Browne business to Ermenegildo Zegna Group at a $500 million valuation. Since then, Browne’s brand has flourished, with annual sales topping €330 million in 2023. And now, after all these years, he is the stateside fashion industry’s de facto leader as chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.