Thom Browne Stages Performance in Milan Unveiling Frette Collaboration

MILAN — It isn’t every day that one sees a Jacques Adnet bed decked out in Thom Browne sheets and blankets by Frette in the middle of Milan’s Via Gesù.

The exclusive WWD preview shoot caught the attention of tourists and Milanese alike, creating clusters of onlookers as they walked through the luxury street a few steps away from Via Montenapoleone. However, this was only a taste of what was to come, as in true Thom Browne fashion the designer staged a performance in Milan on Tuesday evening to unveil his namesake brand’s collaboration with Frette.

Called “Time to Sleep,” it was held at Palazzina Appiani, a neoclassical building designed in 1805 within the Parco Sempione, which was the official gallery for the family of Napoleon Bonaparte, and near the Civic Arena, modeled after the antique Roman stadium. It is protected by FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano, which safeguards and enhances Italy’s historical, artistic and landscape heritage, and, as Browne put it, it’s “an unlikely venue for a nap.”

Yet, this is what happened during the performance as six models — three women and three men — arrived dressed for sleep but then were carefully waited upon by two male models who helped them get into Thom Browne’s signature gray suits — sleep masks included. The models then got into bed — simple cots decked out in Frette linens — placed under the frescoed vaults of the Hall of Honor, to the tune of waltzes and lullabies. As guests filed to the cocktail on the terrace, the models pretended to sleep — or perhaps they really did manage to catch a break from the busy and fast-pace of the week.

Browne said in a preview interview that he chose the location because “it’s iconic in Milan, so it was kind of easy. I think I had looked at it for one of my [Moncler] Gamme [Bleu] shows, back with [Moncler chairman and chief executive officer] Remo [Ruffini] so it was a location that I was familiar with. And it felt like a perfect, iconic Milanese location to launch the collection here during the [Salone del Mobile] week.”

thom browne collab frette 2024 DM 007

The designer underscored that this is not a license with Frette and that it will be an ongoing collaboration, not a one-off.

“It was really an easy partnership. I’ve used Frette sheets forever. They had approached us and it was a mutual appreciation of both of our worlds, in regards to what they do so well, and are the best at it. I wanted to collaborate with them simply because of that,” Browne explained.

Asked about the concept behind the presentation of the project, the designer said that “just like everything I do in my stores, I want people to see how I would ideally like them to be seen. But of course, they’re adaptable to any type of bed or room. For me, it lives within the sensibility of the European-American midcentury idea. In the performance, I feel like they are camping cots.”

The Adnet bed is in entirely aligned with the interiors of the Thom Browne stores, where in Milan, for example, a desk by the French Art Deco and modernist architect and designer stands at the entrance.

“In my mind, the launch of a collaboration is important when you feel like it is not a one off-idea. It’s really taking the ideas that I’ve been playing with for the last 20 years, and referencing even the first show I did here in Europe, in Florence. So you’ll get a little bit of a sense of that. And the difference here is that you’ll have all the models getting into beds as opposed to sitting behind desks,” he said, referring to the presentation he staged in 2009 at Pitti Uomo at the Institute of Aeronautical Military Sciences, where clerks were busy typing in synchronicity at 40 identical desks, employing “repetition, and individuality explored through uniformity,” as he did in Milan.

A look at the Thom Browne collaboration with Frette.

A look at the Thom Browne collaboration with Frette.

Daniele Mango/WWD

This is the first time Browne has attended Milan Design Week and holds an event here, which is telling as it is obvious he is expanding his brand’s home and interiors collection — although step by step and in a very personal way, as he admitted.

The collaboration with Frette, he said, “is not forced. We didn’t have to do it. And we did it because I really felt that it was time and the partner was the best partner to be with. So whenever it feels right, that’s when we’ll do more. But for now we are doing so much so it’s nice to concentrate and do it really well. I do feel like there’s still so much I could do.”

Last year he unveiled a glassware collection made by storied French crystal-maker Baccarat, which he said is sold out. “We’re now in the second edition, and this is continuous, too.”

This week, he is also presenting tea sets in a collaboration with Haviland, one of the world’s most respected manufacturers of Limoges porcelain dating back to the 19th century, and sterling and silver-plated home pieces with Christofle.

The Thom Browne collaboration with the 160-year-old Frette comprises bedding, bath linens, robes and more. Cut from white cotton sateen, the duvet and sheet sets are finished with Frette’s exclusive method, conceived in 1903, which enhances softness and imparts a subtle shine.

“Sheets for me are always only white,” he said smiling. The bedding is accented with a custom label and four lines of gray embroidery, a nod to Thom Browne’s signature emblem. The motif appears again in ivory on a gray wool-cashmere blanket, throw, and decorative cushion. 

Bath accessories include a set of guest, face and bath towels and a quilted bath mat — each with a four-bar border. The bathrobe is in light gray yarn-dyed cotton velour, and its dressing gown counterpart is crafted exclusively of cashmere. There is also a white gym towel and white beach bag in soft terry cotton.

As a sign of the meticulous attention to detail, Browne said the two companies worked on the collection for two years.

The designer is known for his sophisticated taste, sharing beautiful homes with his life partner, museum curator Andrew Bolton. Asked if the collections for his namesake brand stem from one singular concept that informs also his personal spaces, he responded: “Yes, in a way, unfortunately, I can’t get away from it [chuckling]. It’s all one world. I like people to feel the connection between what I do for my collections but also my personal life and all things that I really like myself, and that’s what makes it easy and fun to do because it’s so personal. And I think it’s more valuable to people, too because it is personal.”

Elaborating on what he appreciates, he said “it’s simple architecture, I do love midcentury architecture, but I also love 18th- and 19th-century Georgian architecture, it’s very square and rectangular, simple and not overly cluttered with stuff. And I like rooms that aren’t overly filled with objects. The finishes of the rooms are the most important — wood or terrazzo floors or Travertine walls — and then just a couple of really good pieces of furniture. Good materials so if it’s done really well, you don’t really have to worry about what you put in it.”

While Browne counts the one house in Sutton Place and a house in upstate New York, which he and Bolton just bought and started to redecorate, when traveling the designer admitted he “loves” to stay in hotels, enjoying the “ease” of being taken care of. Case in point: Milan’s Four Seasons Hotel, where the interview took place.

“And I love the art of hospitality. The idea of amazing luxury properties, and the Four Seasons has always been my home and it’s just a great place to be,” he added.

Browne is committed to finding different furniture pieces for his stores to provide different experiences — key for the designer ever since his first store in New York two decades ago — and admitted that he didn’t think people really know that every piece is for sale.

The agreement with Frette is yet another link to Italy, strengthening even more the bond with the country, where Browne’s fashion is produced. Since 2018, the brand has been controlled by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, which was publicly listed on the New York Exchange in December 2021.

“It’s a whole new world, the idea of being public and having to relate to that world, especially when I do something very specific, which I think a lot of times wouldn’t always be so understandable. But it helps that business is doing well,” Browne said.

Indeed, as reported, last year the brand generated revenues of 380.3 million euros, up 14.9 percent on 2022. Adjusted operating profit for the brand amounted to 59 million euros, up 22.7 percent on the year before.

The collection made with Frette is available at Thom Browne and Frette stores around the world and at

The brand is offered in more than 300 leading department store and specialty boutique doors across 40 countries and through 110 retail stores, flagships and shops-in-shop in key cities such as New York, London, Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, San Francisco, Singapore, Vancouver and Kobe, Japan.

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