The Agency’s Jeff Kohl traveled to Tokyo this past March and had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Thom Browne Tokyo Flagship, the legendary designer’s first free-standing boutique outside of the U.S. Located in the Aoyama district, the store features a clean, minimalist yet sophisticated aesthetic and was designed by Browne along with Masamichi Katayama and his interior architecture firm Wonderwall. After the opening, Jeff spoke with Thom Browne about his new Tokyo store and the inspiration behind its beautiful design, and discovers the city he is planning to open a store in next.
Thom first of all, congratulations on the opening of the Thom Browne Tokyo Flagship. This is your second stand-alone boutique, with your first being in New York. Why did you choose Tokyo?
It really was because of how receptive Japan has always been to my collections and my design, and it was just a natural fit. And also because having a store in Tokyo was important not just for Tokyo and Japan, but for all of Asia.
How has Tokyo — its architecture, design and people — influenced your designs?
I don’t think it has literally influenced me, but it’s the one place in the world where I find their appreciation for everything inspirational. That’s probably what is the most inspirational thing to me — their appreciation of everything that is good, fine and well done.
The boutique is located in Tokyo’s Aoyama world class shopping district, and is absolutely stunning with a very minimalist retro feel to it. It felt like Tilda Swinton’s character in “I Am Love” could walk through the door at any moment. How would you sum up the overall aesthetic you were trying to achieve? When someone walks in, what is that you want them to feel?
Really it was based off of what I did in New York, but it was more of a conceptual version of it and almost presents two experiences. A more conceptual experience from the outside and then more of a literal experience from what I did in New York when you step inside the store. Most important, it’s not a true retail experience; it’s more of an architectural shopping experience.
I’m assuming you were very much involved in the design process. How was it collaborating with Masamichi Katayama on the design of the space?
I did truly design the store. I wanted to work with Katayama because I knew that he could actualize it because of his experience.
You had the opening dinner at Hotel Okura Tokyo, which I am in love with. Have you always stayed there?
That is the only place to stay in Tokyo.
In the luxury real estate market, we are seeing a large number of investors from Asia actively buying in the U.S. Are you seeing the same in the high-end luxury fashion market, with a growing demand from Asian consumers?
Yes, it is an important market for me and always has been.
I know it’s just been a few days since your Tokyo Flagship opened, but when can we expect a third Thom Browne boutique? What city or cities would you like to open in next? Perhaps Los Angeles?
Yes, LA is very important and probably within the next year. I don’t have a location yet, but it is definitely a city I want to open a store in. Miami is another in the U.S. Then overseas, London, Paris and Milan.
Finally, I know you relentlessly travel around the world on business, and have said that you don’t have time for a real vacation, but if you could get away to anywhere in the world, just to escape and relax, where would you go?
I love the Villa D’Este in Como.