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Fashion designer Thom Browne hosts football game photo shoot at Notre Dame

Notre Dame is well known for its football games, but the game on Wednesday, Oct. 26 was a little different.

Two 15-person teams of Notre Dame undergraduates, Team Onslaught in navy and Team Rockne in gray, faced off on South Quad.

According to the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS), which hosted the game, “The uniforms — which included not cleats and helmets but cashmere knits, waffle-knit long johns and striped rugby polos — were the real star of the show.”

Notre Dame graduate and luxury fashion designer Thom Browne ’88 organized the fashionable football game. Each year since 2014, Browne has hosted a football-themed photo shoot to promote his fashion line. Until this year, Browne has always held the shoot at Central Park in New York City.

Photos from the Notre Dame shoot, featuring students as models, were published in GQ and Vogue.

NDIAS director Meghan Sullivan said she was “over the moon” that Browne decided to hold the shoot at his alma mater.

“It was a chance to show the world, like all the readers of Vogue and everybody who follows high-end fashion, that Notre Dame is a big player in this space, and alums from our university are leaders in fashion,” Sullivan said. “Frankly, those students who are in the fashion shoot… watch this space, because, 10 years from now, they’re going to be leaders in this industry.”

Sullivan said students had to apply to take part in the photo shoot, and NDIAS selected them based on their creativity, their interest in fashion and their interest in taking next semester’s one-credit course, “Strong Suits: The Art, Philosophy And Business Of Thom Browne.”

According to NDIAS, the course will explore how fashion is designed and manufactured; the business strategy of artist-owned luxury brands; fashion writing and criticism; and more.

Sullivan, a philosophy professor in addition to her role at NDIAS, and Michael Schreffler, an associate professor in the art, art history and design department, will teach the course, but Browne — NDIAS’s artist-in-residence for the 2022-23 academic year — will be a special guest.

Notre Dame students Luke Thornbrue (left), Aidan O’Brien, Chris Russo and Eno Nto in action during Thom Browne’s football game photo shoot. Courtesy of Sinna Nasseri

As for the football game, NDIAS managing director Angie Appleby Purcell said over 100 students applied to take part in the photo shoot, and 30 were chosen.

Purcell said both Browne and NDIAS wanted to create an opportunity for students that would allow them to creatively and innovatively approach fashion, “an area that, as a University, we don’t have tons of depth in, but have a lot of interest in growing in.”

Purcell wanted students to see the example of Browne, a graduate of the Mendoza College of Business, and know that even if fashion is “not the way you were educated at Notre Dame,” if it’s a passion, one can become ”highly successful.”

Thom Browne poses with Notre Dame student Ian Coates. Courtesy of Barbara Johnston

Ese-Onosen Omoijuanfo, a senior neuroscience and behavior major, was one of the students who modeled for the photo shoot. Omoijuanfo said as a STEM student, she loves going to a liberal arts university like Notre Dame.

“There is so much inspiration to be found in the arts, and as someone working towards being a well-rounded person, it means having these real-life experiences that Notre Dame does an amazing job of providing in my experience,” she said.

She said she applied to participate in the photo shoot because she enjoys studying aesthetics and beauty.

“I have taken a theology course, a philosophy course and a psychology course, and each has approached this topic from a different perspective,” Omoijuanfo said. “When I was looking at the application… it described it as an opportunity to understand the work that goes into creating an aesthetic work of art and offers insight into the philosophy of design and beauty. I thought that participating in a project like this would be interesting to see more of how the production side of aesthetic works.”

Since participating in the shoot, Omoijuanfo said her friends and family have been shocked to see her in magazines and social media posts. So was she.

“I guess I was just oblivious, but I didn’t know or realize where the pictures were going to be published. It wasn’t till one of my friends texted me ‘Hey, you’re in Vogue,’ that I realized,” she said. “Lots of people will send me posts… like ‘What?! How did this happen?’ and it’s funny to explain the story of how it all happened.”

Ese-Onosen Omoijuanfo (front row, second from left) was one of the students who participated in the Thom Browne photo shoot. Courtesy of Sinna Nasseri

Omoijuanfo added that everyone’s reaction has been “super kind and excited.”

“It’s not every day you get to model for Thom Browne, and it’s fun to share that excitement with people and kind of laugh about the randomness of the opportunity to do so,” she said. “I have good friends who really celebrate with me when good things or fun opportunities happen, so it has been a really fun experience.”

Contact Claire Reid at creid6@nd.edu.

By Claire Reid

Claire is a senior at Notre Dame in the Journalism, Ethics and Democracy program. She is from Madison, WI, and has had internships at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Los Angeles Times and the South Bend Tribune.

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