Be careful if you ever get an invitation to join Thom Browne for Thanksgiving dinner: you’re likely to get hurt.
That’s because the designer and his family always kick off the party with a touch football game that they take very seriously. “We are a competitive Irish Catholic family, so someone always got hurt. It was touch football, but ours was violent touch, ”he said with a laugh. “But it’s a nice family tradition.”
It’s that family tradition that Browne drew on for his latest sports-related project: a football-themed collection for his alma mater, Notre Dame.
Over the summer, the university named Browne artist-in-residence for the 2022-23 academic year at its Institute for Advanced Study. The event includes campus events centered on her life and work moderated by another Notre Dame alumnus, Michael Hainey, a former deputy editor of GQ. The first was held in late October, and Browne used the visit to host his annual football game on the south quad of campus.
Since 2014, Browne has hosted a Central Park Thanksgiving Day pre-game, bringing together family, friends, models, actors and photographers for a spirited competition. But this year she returned to South Bend, Indiana, for the first time since she graduated in 1988 and brought together a group of Notre Dame students to face off in a live game.
“We didn’t realize how much fun we would have,” he said. “She took us out of our fashion world for a couple of days. The children were so charming and refreshing, they are so smart and serious. We had a really good time.”
He said that among the students who participated in the game were some college swimmers, but no one from the football team. They also wore the clothing collection that Browne described as a “hybrid of rugby and American football.” That includes classic varsity pieces like rugby polo shirts, long johns and sweaters featuring the brand’s four-bar stripe, in gray or navy and white. The capsule also features some of the brand’s signature items, such as the turtleneck coat, sack jacket and high-top canvas sneakers.
The collection, which includes pieces for children and dogs and some spectator wear such as skirts, down-filled parkas and a muff, will be sold at Thom Browne stores from Thursday.
“The gray team was supposed to win, but the navy won,” Browne said.
The designer, who swam on the Notre Dame team during his college years, said he only watched from the sidelines rather than participate. Maybe he was just trying to avoid getting hurt.
The football collection is the designer’s latest sport-related project. He famously dressed LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2018 NBA Playoffs, created golf capsules, is the official off-field apparel provider for the FC Barcelona soccer team, and held one of his most recent fashion shows. at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. the site of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Browne, who graduated with an accounting and economics degree from the university, said she got a call from Meghan Sullivan, associate dean for the arts at Notre Dame, a few months ago to see if she would consider hiring the artist-in-residence. position. She jumped at the opportunity because of her respect for the university and the education she received there. “I get a lot of calls like that, but I did it because it was Notre Dame and I wanted to come back,” she said.
“My years at Notre Dame were formative for me, developing my sense of identity and my motivation to succeed,” he said at the time of the appointment in late August. “Athletics has always been important to me, an important part of my life. My time swimming at Notre Dame stays with me to this day. The rigor and discipline keep me fighting for more every day, without ever compromising. My experience at Notre Dame continues to inform my daily approach to life, design and success.”
During his spring visit in April, Browne will be a guest speaker on the one-credit course, “Strong Suits: The Art, Philosophy, and Business of Thom Browne,” co-taught by Sullivan and Michael Schreffler, associate professor in the department. art, art history and design. Browne said that during his stay on campus, he will also speak with MBA students.
The Notre Dame project is just one of many for the multitasking designer, who will take office as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America on January 1. His brand, which had sales of €185.8 million in the first half of this year, operates some 96 stores around the world and is in the midst of a retail launch that will see that number rise to 150 in the next four or five years. The company is majority owned by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group.
Browne credited his team with helping him juggle all of his projects. “I have so many good people around me,” he said. And while he’s keeping his plans for the CFDA a secret for now, he’s confident he can make a mark on the organization. “I wouldn’t take it if I didn’t think I could handle it,” he said.