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Designer Thom Browne on Tight Suits, Amish Roots, and His Latest Foray, Car Interiors

Thom Browne and I share two things in common when we sit down to chat about the pimped out Infiniti Q50 he designed for Gilt.com. One is ankle cleavage—mine is because I'm wearing a long dress and his because he's got on one of his famous suits on. Second is our alma mater: Notre Dame. It's enough to get the mild-mannered designer, who, unlike the Lagerfelds of the world runs eight miles a day and sleeps in a twin bed, to open up a little bit about the man behind the shrunken suit.

DETAILS: So much of what you do is related to proportion and silhouette—how did that come into play with the car design?

THOM BROWNE: It more played into the tailoring aspect of what I do. I wanted to create something really strict and almost a little uncomfortable to approach, but when you open the car door you see the real signature and what I'm all about with the black pebble grain and the red, white, and blue stripe.

DETAILS: How is the process of designing a car different from clothes?

THOM BROWNE: Infiniti was open to my ideas and there was a lot of back and forth. True collaborations really only work when like-minded parties get together, and I had to know what could be done and couldn't be done. A lot of times it was like "Thom, we love the idea but we can't do that specifically, but let's figure out how to marry the two together." And that's what you see.

DETAILS: There probably weren't many flashy cars in rural Pennsylvania, where you grew up. Is that what inspired the mock-Amish barn raising we saw at your fall show?

THOM BROWNE: It definitely did. I like to bring in some type of personal reference to all my collections, but this was a true homage to my growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where you see a little bit of that [Amish culture]. I think they live in such an interesting way. It also references my appreciation for uniforms and uniformity.

DETAILS: Did attending the University of Notre Dame also play into your appreciation for structure?

THOM BROWNE: I think it's just a part of being Catholic. [Laughs] A part of that I really do appreciate, and a part of that really makes you want to go out and do your own thing. I love how structured I am, but I love being as provocative as possible in regards to my collections.

DETAILS: After graduating you pursued acting for a little while and then jumped straight into fashion. What happened?

THOM BROWNE: I think it's just being open to life leading you somewhere else. I knew one thing wasn't working out as well for me as I wanted it to, and I had the ambition to do something else. The first two years weren't easy but I knew if I liked the clothes myself, somebody else would know why.

DETAILS: You'll go to the grave as the man responsible for the shrunken suit, but is there anything else on your bucket list?

THOM BROWNE: I never intellectualize what I do or look at the big picture. I like to put interesting things in front of people and tell stories every season. Whatever happens, happens. I've always just wanted to make things that meant something to people.

DETAILS: Are we going to be bearing our ankles in 10 years?

THOM BROWNE: I never understood what a big deal it was, so yes, I think it'll be around for a while now.

DETAILS: I'm going to have you finish my sentences now.

THOM BROWNE: Okay.

DETAILS: The biggest style mistake guys make...

THOM BROWNE: Clothing that doesn't fit.

DETAILS: The one item from my wardrobe I'd save in a fire is…

THOM BROWNE: I probably wouldn't take anything. I'd hope I had clothes on? I'd probably take my wallet.

DETAILS: Are there any styles or items of clothing you can't pull off?

THOM BROWNE: No, I only wear my own clothes so I wouldn't have to think about that.

Browne's custom Infiniti car is up for sale on December 12th at Gilt.com for a cool $75,000. Gilt's tossing in $10,000 in merchandise credit for whomever nabs it first, and donating a portion of the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Hospital.

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—Kristen Dold. Follow her @kristendold.

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Also on Details.com:
Rules of Style: Nick Wooster
Rules of Style: Union Los Angeles Owner Chris Gibbs
Halloween Costumes That Actually Make You Look Handsome

Photos courtesy of Thom Browne and Gilt
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