thom browne isn't really a label I like, but the stuff is very nicely made. it's all done in nyc at primo coat corp, which is a highly respected factory.
"AFTER BREAKFAST, Thom Browne picks up his briefcase, clop-clops across the cobblestones of the Village in his big black shoes, and catches the E train to Long Island City. His factory occupies the top floor of a building in the Erector-set shadow of the Queensboro Bridge. Browne climbs three flights of battleship-gray stairs, pushes open a door that says primo coat corp, enters a fluorescent-lit room where a team of tailors as diverse as Queens itself—sixty or sixty-five people, chattering Latinas with Santa Maria prayer cards pinned to the lights on their workbenches, old Italians bent like drinking straws at the shoulders from a lifetime of looking closely—cut patterns, press pants, sew striped linings into jackets. Aside from the Black Fleece stuff (which is produced in Italy), nearly everything Browne sells is made here.
There’s undoubtedly a little sales pitch to Browne’s professed adoration of the past. (He says he admires the painstaking early-’60s production design on Mad Men but can’t watch it because he hates seeing all these well-dressed midcentury-modern men depicted as beasts who do nothing but booze and smoke and cheat on their wives.) But the truth about the past is that they -really did do some things better back then, which is why Browne loves this place and Rocco Ciccarelli, who owns it.
Rocco has white hair and a diagonal scar across his nose and upper lip. He was born in Italy, the son of a tailor. He made his first suit when he was 14—“and I’m 39 now,” he says. (He’s 72.) His factory is one of the last places in New York, and thus in America, that still makes suits the old-fashioned way. What is not sewn by hand is sewn on twenty-year-old Singer sewing machines. The sewing machines are made of iron and look heavy as anvils. They fill the room with intermittent bursts of noise, like machine-gun fire, but otherwise it’s weirdly quiet. The newest technology on the factory floor is the phone system. It’s from the ’90s.
Browne and Rocco began working together when Browne started his company. Browne says his line wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Rocco, that no one else can translate his ideas the way Rocco does, that no one knows this much about construction, that no one takes this kind of care.
Rocco makes the clothes for Browne’s runway shows here, too. He made the three-legged pants. “I tell him,” Rocco says, “my career—it will be the last thing I will do. Pants with three legs! What is left now—to make a jacket with three sleeves?”
“But that’s the perfect example,” Browne says, smiling. “It could only be done by Rocco. Because a lot of people could have jury-rigged two trousers together, but this was a seriously well-made trouser.”
Browne invites Rocco to every show he does; he’s only attended once.
“I don’t like to see my work when it is finished,” he says. “Because I will self-criticize myself. And I will have a lousy evening. We know there is not such a thing as a perfect garment. You never see a perfect garment. But I always see something that could be done better than what I did.”
This is the part of Thom Browne’s work that nobody talks about—the craftsmanship that goes into all those pants and jackets. At some point, as Browne’s business grows, it won’t be practical to do things here. Not in New York, probably not in America. But for the moment, Browne, the man out of time, can work with Rocco, the last of the breed.