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09.27.65. Thom Browne’s Vetyver

“There are two sides to my world. There is the uniform and then there is the conceptual side that makes that uniform interesting every season. I think of them very differently, but the conceptual side starts from the uniform, and the uniform really is based in tailoring.” Fashion designer Thom Browne celebrates the individuality found in uniformity. Since 2001 he has been subverting tailoring and reinterpreting the All-American-Wardrobe. Now he turns his mischievous, impossibly chic attention to fragrance with an impeccable line up of Vetyver perfumes.

Words
JOHN WILLIAM
Animations
BEAUTY PAPERS CREATES AND CONSULTS

Last week Thom Browne launched his perfume collection at Dover Street Market. There was something otherworldly about the American TB Crew’s arrival – a regiment of impossibly tall characters with too-short trousers, head to toe wrapped in trademark shrunken grey flannel tailoring. A gang of sexy Peewee Hermans. You might think that sounds perverse, and you’d be right. There’s always something twisted to Browne’s beauty. Seersucker serial killers, tweedy garden gnomes, Bouclé bondage. The idée fixe of the brand is uniform, but from within the strict (to the point of kink) parameters of American prep – Thom Browne has designed an expansive world full of surprises and creativity. The at-times bonkers catwalk spectacles (see ballet dancer James Whiteside pirouetting in a TB-tutu for SS20) translate in-store to subversive yet wearable clothes that have rewritten the rulebook for American sportswear. Reader look down. If protruding from the cuff of your trews you can see enough sock or ankle to make a Victorian blush, you’ve been Browne-d.

“I think that there’s such confidence in someone who adopts a uniform for themselves. It really speaks to true individuality. True individuals have a sense of themselves in that uniform.” Thom and I are both wearing our respective uniforms of perennial shorts (his – substantially more thigh caressing and tailored than mine) as we chat at DSM’s Rose Bakery. He has just dashed from Claridge’s Bar where somebody made fun of his grey flannel shorts. “I really don’t care, but sometimes I’m just like are you kidding? I’m really not in the mood today.” A cocktail of Catholic Schooling, suited-and-booted father, and lack of interest in Fashion (note the italics and capital eff) seem to have led to Thom Browne’s iconic look. Individuality found in uniformity could be the house motto, and his exquisite new collection of perfumes are variations on the theme of Vetyver.

“I think that there’s such confidence in someone who adopts a uniform for themselves. It really speaks to true individuality. True individuals have a sense of themselves in that uniform.”

“The collection started two years ago, and it took me two years to really develop something that I feel is very timeless and iconic. Everybody knows a version of Vetyver, as do I.” Thom is taking me through the six perfumes, all based on a very pure version of vetyver. Is there a personal connection with that smell? “Indirectly. Of course, you think of Guerlain’s Vetiver, but more the idea of it. I know a lot of people, who have very good taste, who seem to have gravitated to or have grown up wearing Guerlain’s Vetiver.” Three refined vetyver extracts create the unique accord that is at its purest in 09.27.65 (Vetyver Absolut.) The rest of the bottles (labelled 09.27.65.01 to 09.27.65.05) take you from day to night: Cucumber, Grapefruit, Rose, Whiskey and Smoke. Thom describes the inspiration for Smoke a huge crystal ashtray full of cigarette butts.

 

Photography ARNO FRUGIER

“The collection started two years ago, and it took me two years to really develop something that I feel is very timeless and iconic. Everybody knows a version of Vetyver, as do I.”

BP: There is such a subversive streak parading through your work, where does it come from?
TB: It’s just in my head. It really comes from wanting to make things interesting that people maybe haven’t seen before. I challenge myself to really do that. Where it comes from? I don’t really know, but it comes from somewhere in my head.

BP: When you were starting to form a creative identity, where there any influences, muses, people, or memories that you think help formed this very particular beauty that your brand has?
TB: Yeah, I think there’s been directors through the years, Italian directors of the 50’s and 60’s. There’s Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Stanley Kubrick and how visually diverse he could be. It’s never come from fashion. But I do have to give credit to the iconic designers from the early Twentieth Century to now, that have really challenged people and made people think and have created an identity. That is not always easy.

BP: Your Spring Summer show was a Rococo romp. Where did the idea come from?
TB: It was all based on French Eighteenth Century references. No one in particular, but it was taking those references and putting them into my world of preppy American sportswear and having fun, playing around… and adding a baby into the mix. [Beauty Papers muse Maggie Maurer pushed a pram down the catwalk]

 

Thom Browne SS20

“I’m just really trying to create something that’s not so ordinary. I’m so tired of everyone wanting everything so ordinary and so normal. I try to fight that, and I think more of us should.”

BP: The name of your perfume is your birthday. How did you celebrate your last birthday?
TB: I was working. It’s always around the time of my shows. And my birthday is whatever… I think as you get older, your birthday gets less and less important. Andrew [Bolton, Thom’s boyfriend] and I just had room service, and it was a nice, quiet event.

BP: Do you do gifts?
TB: We do occasionally. Life is a gift.

BP: You reminded everyone how sexy ankles are. Where do think is the sexiest place to put your Vetyver?
TB: Maybe try it on your ankle. [Laughs] I’ve never thought about it. That would be kind of nice. I think it’s personal. I think you should put it on wherever it feels sexiest for you.

BP: Other than this fragrance, what else is part of your beauty regime?
TB: I don’t think that much about it. Of course, I have some type of face lotion, but it’s soap, shampoo, and face lotion.

BP: The scents are not shy, and neither are your catwalk shows. Would it be fair to call the Thom Browne version of beauty polarizing?
TB: It’s definitely polarizing, as I always find out. And sometimes I don’t try to be, as much as I end up being. I’m just really trying to create something that’s not so ordinary. I’m so tired of everyone wanting everything so ordinary and so normal. I try to fight that, and I think more of us should.


The Thom Browne fragrance collection is available at Dover Street Market.