Don't overthink Thom Browne.
Yes, he dressed Michelle Obama on Inauguration Day in an outfit made of fabrics usually used for men's ties, and, yes, his most recent New York Fashion Week show seemed a fairy tale interpreted through "Fifty Shades of Grey." But Browne says he isn't staring at the ceiling at night thinking how to shake up fashion. He's just not the overzealous, mercurial artiste.
What he's doing is building a business — and what he hopes is a smart, long-lasting business at that.
Browne has made an impeccably tailored (although slightly shrunken) suit his uniform, for goodness sakes.
He came from a nice family in Allentown, Pa. He was a college swimmer at Notre Dame, where he studied economics. He cared about school and sports, Browne says, and he didn't think much about his wardrobe until he landed in New York in the 1990s and got an office job at Giorgio Armani.
He runs, without fail, for 70 minutes a day.
Browne, 47, says he sometimes is entertained to read the audience's musings about the deep meanings of his runways — which also have included a futuristic funhouse, a makeshift convent and a turf tennis court. Sometimes are way off base, but that's OK. At least they're thinking about him and his clothes.
At a show, he has a chance to leave a lasting impression with each of the 30 to 40 looks, he explains, and "I want to make people think, or laugh, or cry. I really don't think about whether they'll like it or don't like it."
Fashion is a crowded place, he says, and he wants to stand out from the masses. "I have no interest in trends. People say, 'Really?' to that. It's not that I don't care, but I don't want to follow trends, and I don't especially want to create them."
He doesn't look to obscure works of art or exotic locales for inspiration, although, he allows, there might be the subtle influence from time to time from a Turner Classic movie.
"There's a reason for everything I do. I don't do these fantastic shows arbitrarily," Browne adds. "From start to finish, I know what people will see. I have to think logically."
Ultimately, this is about men wearing his tailored and tweaked preppy styles, and women wearing dresses with carefully sculpted silhouettes and carrying their luxe, streamlined Thom Browne handbag.
"I don't design from a commercial point of view, but I would love for people to wear my clothes," Browne says. He is flattered when he sees passers-by on the street wearing his label — or even an imitation of his trademark styles.