Mon, Apr 10
On April 10, 2023, Thom Browne showed up on Notre Dame's campus to be the guest professor for the final meeting of the Strong Suits class. Stories were told. Debate was had. Relationships were forged. An unforgettable conversation ensued. Below is a snapshot of this event, as told by the Strong Suits students themselves.
Despite Notre Dame’s preppy collegiate feel, Thom Browne and his team clad in tailored gray suits standout as they strut across South Quad. Whenever Browne is on campus, I find myself digging through my closet in the hopes that I can dress to meet the occasion. Although Browne reminded us that it is important to “dress to impress,” he is nowhere near as intimidating as some of his towering peers in the fashion industry. In our intimate roundtable discussion, Browne gladly fielded questions, often finding a way to deliver a cheeky response. “Who would you most like to dress?” We are at Notre Dame, so Browne answered, “why not Jesus!” After poking and prodding from every angle, Browne wanted answers from us, the students. “I want to know what you’ve learned,” he begged. The obvious question for anyone visiting a group of students that had been learning about his life and brand for the past three months. A collection of students from a variety of disciplines, we shared our interpretations of the broader impact of fashion and Browne’s label.
As a political science student, I admired Browne’s sense of fearlessness that was untethered by convention—which coursed through every remark he made. When it comes to bending the rules of gender or fashion Browne simply asks the question, “Why not?”
To give you a sense of the occasion, Browne joked that his only vice might be champagne. So when our faculty rolled out boxes of pizza, I had to suppress my appetite. There was no way I would let Thom Browne see me eat a slice of greasy Detroit style pizza. But—I had three slices once he left.
After a trip to New York City and class discussions with some of Thom Browne’s employees, models, and fans, I was incredibly excited to meet the man himself. We prepared so many questions for Mr. Browne beforehand that we were eager to hear his answers, so I was taken aback when he began by asking us what we’d been discussing over the last five lectures. I still pinch myself when I consider that Thom Browne–a man who has dressed some of the biggest celebrities in the world and whose work is changing the global understanding of American fashion–wanted to know what fourteen college students were working on before anything else. While Notre Dame isn’t typically associated with high fashion, Mr. Browne perfectly exemplifies Notre Dame’s values in his personality and work. He and the employees who joined him in South Bend were some of the kindest, hardest-working people I’ve met. I feel so grateful for their generosity in allowing us into Thom Browne’s world. Meeting Mr. Browne and his team has shown me that with the values Notre Dame has instilled in us, anything we dream of doing is possible. Being a part of Strong Suits was a dream come true and has only inspired me to dream bigger.
The inner workings of the fashion industry often appear mysterious to those not immersed in it. Our candid conversation with Thom Browne allowed us to pull back the curtain on one of the most celebrated brands of the moment and to personally hear from the face of the company we had been analyzing all semester. Of course, we had many questions for Thom ranging from the source of his inspirations to celebrity dressings to what the future holds for the business. His commitment to the creative vision and the establishment of house codes with an American sensibility and global applications shone through as he detailed the immersive experience that was the Fall 2023 show we attended.
But Thom had questions for us, too. His curiosity for what we had learned and discussed in this course struck me, and I am grateful for Thom’s openness and kindness throughout the entire Strong Suits experience.