Island Of Misfits. Thom Browne AW22

Thom Browne‘s jaw-dropping autumn-winter 2022 show added up to the pre-Met-Gala, statement-fashion buzz that’s going on all over New York right now. But Browne’s collection had little to do with Gilded Glamour (the theme of today’s gala), and more with another Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s fashion subject from a couple of years ago: Comme Des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo. Of course, Thom’s collections are always extraordinary, but this season, the signature gray wool suits went Comme – meaning conceptual, statuesque, big. And this is a major compliment for any contemporary designer. Giant yarns made up knits, some looks were pleated to resemble a slinky, and one preppy sweater was molded into a literal ball. It was all densely layered and piled up on precarious heels composed of schoolhouse blocks spelling out T-H-O-M-B-R-O-W-N-E. Then came the toys, where you could only giggle at the ballooning proportions of a lobster look and at the mania of Browne’s craft. The loveliest dolls in the dollhouse were a teal diagonally striped prom dress and a similar gown-ish green column layered atop an oversize white button down. It wasn’t messy – Browne’s patterns always meet, his hems are always tailored to immaculate precision – but it looked like it had lived a little. According to the designer, this collection is about New York as “an island of misfit toys” and the way people come to the city “to find themselves and to create themselves,” he said. The line-up was presented as a Ted Talk – cue the pun – led by model Rocky Harwell dressed as a Thom Browne teddy bear to an audience of stuffed teddies in little Thom Browne suits. Well, this is definitely one of my favourite TB collections in a while!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Signatures. Thom Browne Pre-Fall 2022

People might find Thom Browne’s work monotonous, if they look at it superficially. Gray wool suit, pleated skirt, rakish tie – these distinct Browne signatures are always there. However, Browne rarely does the same thing twice. Sure, he has a very stable gray wool core, but each season he delights in trying out an outrageous new silhouette, a clever in-joke, or a cheeky rethink of an American staple. While this women’s collection carries over motifs from Browne’s men’s pre-fall, including lovely jade floral intarsias inspired by his bedroom wallpaper and a fixation with lobsters resulting in an exceptional Shetland wool lobster skirt – he introduced new whimsical proportions here. A cropped puffer was so short and bulbous it almost looked like a mushroom cap atop slender black trousers. Browne has never made a womenswear silhouette that exaggerates the upper body in this abbreviated way before. Elsewhere, khaki shorts do the opposite for a woman’s lower half; they’re cut wide, loose, and sexless enough to look dementedly funny. The signature Browne suit has evolved, as well: The shoulderpads and the canvas are cut out of the brand’s cropped blazer so that it’s as soft and snuggly as a cardigan, constructed from an elegant black-and-white tweed. The check gray skirt suit in look 28 might seem standard, but look closer and Browne is doing something strangely new: here is a single-breasted blazer with a vest long enough to be worn as a dress and a loose, almost shapeless skirt. For a designer with famously strict tailoring, silhouettes that skim the body and waft in the breeze are practically revelatory. Browne says the suit is “the most important look” of the collection, unlocking an idea that will carry to the silhouettes we’ll see in his autumn-winter 2022 outing in a couple of weeks.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Suits & Intarsia. Thom Browne Pre-Fall 2022

For pre-fall 2022, Thom Browne‘s models sport inches-long falsies and tote leather lobster bags and backpacks in a display that is so provocatively Surrealist it recalls Elsa Schiaparelli’s daring 1937 dress with a crustacean across the crotch. Browne’s version relies less on the obvious pun of that exoskeletal creature – he says the lobster is just the latest of the animals he has welcomed into his zoo – and more an examination of the beauty of skirting on men. It’s a continuation of ideas he started nearly 20 years ago but have taken hold of late, with Dan Levy and Lee Pace wearing Browne’s skirts on the red carpet. This season he’s constructed half-pleated, half-straight versions of his classic kilt, worn with “one-and-a-half”–breasted blazers with self-tipped seams and covered buttons. Modular dresses in melton wool carry over from the spring 2022 collection, now in warm dove gray and mossy celadon. A selection of slim, sexy black-tie options, from midi-skirts to short suits, close out the collection. Saving the best for last, there are also jade green floral intarsias. Those of us who have followed Browne for the past two decades may think that he’s tapped all his personal references, but a wise designer always leaves himself room for more. Just before the pandemic hit, Browne and his partner, Andrew Bolton, purchased a new home in Manhattan, which they spent two years renovating. This fall they finally moved in, and their central aesthetic compromise was the hand-painted jade green floral wallpaper above their bed. The same flowers are cut in furs and wools, winding up on overcoats and embroidered into jackets. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything as personal,” Brown summed up. The couple’s home, he says, will be off-limits to design mags, but this simple shared gesture is open to everyone to try on and try out. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that who you spend your life with matters.

Need a quick Thom Browne wardrobe fix? These classics will be it: Thom Browne red & navy wool cardigan, Thom Browne grey car coat, Thom Browne multicolor check miniskirt, Thom Browne grey twill 4-bar blazer & Thom Browne grey waterproof wool derbys.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Once Upon A Time. Thom Browne SS22

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.