Thom Browne on Dressing Michelle Obama, Being a 'Conceptual' Designer

When Hamish Bowles presented Thom Browne with the Pratt Fashion Visionary Award at last night's Pratt Institute Fashion Show, he brought up Michelle Obama's choice of a Thom Browne coat on Inauguration day, calling it a "life-changing event" for the designer. Browne wouldn't disagree with that sentiment.
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When Hamish Bowles presented Thom Browne with the Pratt Fashion Visionary Award at last night's Pratt Institute Fashion Show, he brought up Michelle Obama's choice of a Thom Browne coat on Inauguration day, calling it a "life-changing event" for the designer. Browne wouldn't disagree with that sentiment.
Thom Browne and Hamish Bowles (Getty)

Thom Browne and Hamish Bowles (Getty)

When Hamish Bowles presented Thom Browne with the Pratt Fashion Visionary Award at last night's Pratt Institute Fashion Show, he brought up Michelle Obama's choice of a Thom Browne coat on Inauguration day, calling it a "life-changing event" for the designer. Browne wouldn't disagree with that sentiment.

"[Dressing] Michelle Obama was truly a very humbling experience," he told us. "Just being able to make something for her--I think she's an amazing woman."

For the modest designer, last night's award was another accomplishment in a long series of them--between dressing the First Lady and being nominated for this year's CFDA Menswear of the Year Award, he's had quite the streak going in 2013. So when it came time for Pratt to choose a designer to honor, it was an easy choice.

"It's a no brainer," said Pratt Fashion Chair Jennifer Minniti. "If you look at what he's done with American fashion, I don't think anyone else is quite pushing it like he does."

Indeed, Browne told the students that he hoped they would "try to scare" themselves with their own ideas, to "try and make people laugh, and make them cry." Never one to shy away from the theatrical himself, we asked Browne how he balanced the conceptual design he loves so much with the commercial design that has allowed him to dress the First Lady.

"You have to!" he said simply. "In order to be able to be conceptual, you have to be able to balance it out with something. You don't have to show the business, but you have to be able to support being able to put interesting ideas in front of people."