No one in New York does opera-level drama like Thom Browne. At his spring 2022 presentation, which was an artistic performance and a fashion spectacle at the same time, the audience could be carried off in awe in so many directions: pegasuses rode penny-farthings, a couple of bachelors haunted a raw wood house, models turned from shrubs into statues… just wow. The presentation began with a voice-over about a couple of bachelors stuck indoors, looking out over an aging garden. Classic statuary, the tradition of carving a marble block into a contrapposto David, charted the show’s three parts: part one, twenty Platonic suiting ideals; part two, the pure marble slab as tunic and maxi, fastened with a hook-and-eye up the back; part three, a trick of the eye, a flex of artistry, full force in tulle. At the end, the show’s two bachelors chained their gates, unzipped each other’s gray wool dresses, and orbited each other, never quite touching hands. Passion thrives in the littlest gestures; Browne’s show was full of beauty to pluck your heartstrings and stoke your sartorial flame. And oh, the details! Those rainbow-color tulle dresses that made up the finale, with trompe l’oeil drapery and abs (the exact Greek statues Browne visited were in The Met), were not painted, but dozens of layers of tulle built up like a topography of the human form. Teddy Quinlivan’s long sheath had an arm sewn to the torso, and the models who walked in the show’s first passage were layered in at least four Browne tailoring separates. This show was not only awesome for its theatricality but for its scale; other designers would struggle to make a single garment to Browne’s standard. Browne made about 200. Each of those 200 shirts, pants, skirts, suits, jackets, bags, shoes, and hand-made gray flowers was, in not-so-coded language, a love letter to American fashion. Browne moved his show back to New York for one season only in support of his partner Andrew Bolton’s exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” opening at The Met this week.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.