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Allentown native designs first lady's inauguration dress

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 21 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 22 2013 05:45:23 AM CST

On Inauguration Day, all eyes in the fashion world are on First Lady Michelle Obama -- and on the Allentown native who designed her dress.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

On Inauguration Day, all eyes in the fashion world are on first lady Michelle Obama -- and on the Allentown native who designed her dress. It's a huge break that could make Thom Browne an even bigger force in the fashion industry.

"I'm just so fortunate, and so honored, and so proud that she chose mine," Browne said Monday from Paris.

Some have already called Browne the most influential name in fashion since Ralph Lauren. He's best known for revolutionizing menswear with his edgy skinny suits.

"He's the reason that a lot of men are wearing smaller suits," said Wall Street Journal fashion columnist Christina Binkley.

In addition to his shrunken designs, Browne is also known for some extreme runway shows.

"I will never forget the time that his show involved the models climbing out of coffins," said Binkley. "Every time it's a spectacle. It's a drama, and it's complete theatre."

But it wasn't always this way. In 1984, Browne was just a senior at William Allen High.

"We couldn't be prouder," said his brother, Pennsylvania state Sen. Pat Browne, R - Allentown. "To have your work being displayed and exhibited on the biggest day of democracy in every four years is just extraordinary."

Even in high school, Thom Browne was singled out for his fashion sense in the William Allen yearbook. But he was mainly known for athletics.

"He was a great swimmer, great tennis player," said his brother.

Browne is already a major name in menswear. In addition to his own line of suits, he's also collaborated with Brooks Brothers and Moncler. But he only recently ventured into women's clothing.

Television host Carson Kressley, also a Lehigh Valley native, said Michelle Obama could be Browne's big break with ladies.

"She's a real woman, and even though she's very influential -- she's on a lot of TV screens today -- she's just like everyone else," said Kressley.

Not only do women relate to Michelle Obama, but they also buy her clothes. After she wore a J. Crew dress on The Tonight Show in 2008, sales jumped 64 percent.

In spite of his fashion fame, Browne's brother said success has not changed him.

"Not at all," said Pat Browne. "Thom has always been a very down to earth person."