Walking into Thom Browne’s Paris headquarters is a little like walking back in time — into a midcentury world filled with men in permanently pressed and fitted two-piece suits with heavy brogues and clip-on ties. The designer’s universe unfolds in shades of gray, like a 1950s television series with the contrast turned way down. The gray of flannel mingles with washed-out cotton and seersucker and wool and cashmere and silk. Forget 50 shades of gray — Browne’s got about a thousand. It’s what he’s built his highly successful and enormously influential business around.
This week, Browne showed his men’s wear collection in Paris — as he has done for the last seven years. This fall, as another mark of his success and influence, the 51-year-old designer will move his women’s wear show (which accounts for around 35 percent of his business) from New York to Paris as well.
It’s a fitting backdrop: In Paris, after all, the light is sometimes gray too. It seems that way two days before Browne’s men’s wear show in the brand’s showroom on the elegant Avenue Hoche in the Eighth Arrondissement. The white rooms, dotted with frosted-glass windows, end up looking gray in the heavily filtered midafternoon light. Spots of color look almost fluorescent here: a packet of Advil; a candy-red-striped food container from the baker Eric Kayser; and a pair of tiny gold-plated baby shoes. The Advil and the baked goods make sense — eating a necessity and headaches an occupational hazard — but the baby shoes?
“It all started with these,” Browne says. They’re his own shoes from childhood; it’s a tradition in his family to dip a pair in gold and have them on display. “I was thinking about how we all start off the same — wearing almost the same clothes,” he says. “And then, it…