Mendoza School of Business

Thom Browne on the business of fashion

The famed designer and Notre Dame alum to discuss his career and the fashion industry during talk at Notre Dame’s business school.

Published: March 27, 2023 / Author: Carol Elliott

Thom Browne

Thom Browne

Thom Browne is considered one of America’s most successful designers of luxury fashion. His long list of plaudits includes chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, former GQ Designer of the Year and three-time winner of the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award. Credited with reconceptualizing the classic men’s suit, Browne has dressed the likes of LeBron James, Lizzo, Michelle Obama and many other celebrities.

Perhaps a lesser-known fact is that Browne earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame — not in design — but in accountancy.

Browne will discuss his career path and the fashion industry at 5 p.m. on April 11 (Tuesday) at the Mendoza College of Business’ Jordan Auditorium. “By Design: Thom Browne on the Business of Fashion” is sponsored by the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS), where he is serving as the Institute’s 2022-2023 artist-in-residence, and the Mendoza College of Business.

The event is free and open to the public. The conversation will be moderated by Michael Hainey (‘86), a writer at large for Air Mail and author of The New York Times bestseller, After Visiting Friends. A question-and-answer period will follow.

The lecture is a continuation of the conversation that began in the fall, when Browne was part of a public discussion moderated by Hainey that focused on his origin story and emergence as a fashion icon. This semester’s event will focus on the business side of his fashion empire.

“This is an extraordinary occasion for Notre Dame students to understand the modern challenges and opportunities of building a brilliant and innovative business,” said Kristen Collett-Schmitt, associate dean for Innovation and Inclusion at Mendoza College of Business. “We are thrilled to welcome Thom Browne to the business school once again.”

Browne, who launched his fashion label in 2003, is credited with reimagining the traditional gray-striped business suit into a distinctive style that came to define his brand. His looks include shrunken jackets and trousers, knitted cardigans, kilts, leather brogues and sport socks in a muted palette of gray, white and navy.

He later expanded his portfolio to include full ready-to-wear collections for both men and women. In 2018, Ermenegildo Zegna purchased 85% of the company, valuing the brand at $500 million.

In addition to serving as artist-in-residence at Notre Dame, Browne and his work are the subject of a one-credit course, “Strong Suits: The Art, Philosophy, and Business of Thom Browne,” co-taught by Meghan Sullivan, director of the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study and the Wilsey Family College Professor of Philosophy, and Michael Schreffler, associate dean for the arts and associate professor in the department of art, art history and design. The course investigates high fashion through an interdisciplinary lens, incorporating discussions of philosophy, designs and business with fashion.

“We look forward to welcoming Thom Browne and Michael Hainey back to campus this spring to build on the conversation they began at Notre Dame in the fall,” said Sullivan. “This discussion will be a wonderful opportunity for students, faculty, and the campus community to learn more about the inner workings of Thom Browne’s business and his journey to build an iconic American brand.”

Visit the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study for more information about the event.