Thom Browne shows how to make the perfect bed with theatrical performance at Milan Design Week 2024

American fashion designer Thom Browne makes his Milan Design Week debut with a new homeware collection created in collaboration with historic linen company Frette

Thom Browne introduced his collaboration with Frette at Milan Design Week yesterday, including a theatrical performance at Palazzina Appiani
Thom Browne introduced his collaboration with Frette at Milan Design Week yesterday, including a theatrical performance at Palazzina Appiani
(Image credit: Courtesy of Thom Browne)

In the grand Hall of Honour in Milan’s Palazzina Appiani this week, you will find six impeccably made beds standing in perfect formation beneath the neoclassical frescoes commissioned by Napoleon for his family residence at the start of the 19th century.

A model patrols the space, intermittently checking his watch, before a bell rings prompting the entrance of six models who slowly, and systematically, stand by each bed and in formation start to get dressed in a suit. Another bell rings: it is time to sleep.

Thom Browne collaborates with Frette at Milan Design Week 2024

Thom Browne Frette Homeware Line at Milan Design Week: models in underwear stand by military-style beds for inspection

(Image credit: Courtesy of Thom Browne)

The suits aren’t any suits, they are Thom Browne’s uniforms, and the beds they turn to lay on are made with the bedding from his new homeware collection with Frette that the designer has arrived to unveil at Milan Design Week 2024.

‘I think it's so much more interesting, and it elevates the product launch, when you create an installation that transcends the specific world that it’s in,’ Browne told Wallpaper* during rehearsals for the performance, entitled Time To Sleep, that will be repeated in the space throughout the week. In the models’ getting dressed, rather than undressed, to sleep, Browne intended to ‘challenge the audience to question the role of dress in public life’.

Comprising sheets, blankets, terry-towel and cashmere robes, bath towels, and a quilted bath mat, the collection is crafted from Frette’s signature cotton sateen and wool-cashmere and detailed with Browne’s four-stripe insignia, normally found in red, white and blue grosgrain but here in elegant wide embroidery.

Thom Browne Frette Homeware Line at Milan Design Week: bedding detail

(Image credit: Courtesy of Thom Browne)

‘The reason I wanted to work with Frette is because they’re the best at what they do and the only type of collaborations I do nowadays is when it’s with somebody whose work I respect and where there is mutual respect,’ he said. ‘It also makes it easier, and so much more organic, because they are the experts.’

True to form, Browne’s latest collaboration is an authentic one. The designer and CFDA chairman has been a customer of the 160-year-old Italian brand – which also furnishes the Orient Express – ‘ever since I bought sheets’ and uses it at the New York home he shares with his partner, Andrew Bolton, curator-in-charge at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and collaborator on Thom Browne, the designer's 20th-anniversary book, released in 2023.

‘They’re all things that I have, so really, the collection is very true to Andrew and I live at home,’ he says, admitting that the idea of a Thom Browne suite on the Orient Express is something he would be very happy to entertain.

Thom Browne Frette Homeware Line at Milan Design Week: models dress beside perfectly made beds

(Image credit: Courtesy of Thom Browne)

As one of Milan’s most important buildings standing stoically in the leafy Parco Sempione, the Palazzina Appiani was the perfect place for Browne to make his Milan Design Week debut.

‘I wanted it to be in one of those iconic Milanese spaces,’ he said. ‘I've done a lot here in Milan in the past, and this was the space I had never used it. I wanted it to feel special – as special as the collection. If I’m going to present it, I’m going to do it somewhere like this – and Frette deserves it.’

Well known for his theatrical fashion shows that subvert the traditional concepts of a fashion presentation, much as his tailoring is famed for challenging the typical properties and convention of a uniform, his debut at Milan Design Week is an homage to his first show in Europe at Pitti in 2009 that saw 40 models line up beside corresponding desks.

Thom Browne Frette Homeware Milan Design Week 2024 presentation: models lie on beds

(Image credit: Courtesy of Thom Browne)

‘That was one of those iconic moments for me in my last 20 years,’ he said. ‘And so with [this] performance, it was really [about] taking the collection and contextualising it in a way that was true to the collection and then referencing the Pitti show. Then it was desks, now it’s beds.’

While two of the most distinctive features of the Thom Browne uniform are the colour grey and the creased Oxford shirt (as he told The New Yorker last year: ‘when something is so well made, I think you need something that kind of throws it off a little bit, so it’s not so precious’), his bedding heralds something of a departure.

‘The sheets have to be pressed. And they have to be white. Never another colour for me.’

Scarlett Conlon a freelance journalist and consultant specialising in fashion, design and lifestyle. Before relocating to Italy, she held roles as deputy fashion editor at The Guardian and Observer and news editor at British Vogue in London. She is currently a regular contributor Wallpaper* Magazine among other prominent international fashion and design titles.