Thom Browne, in the mood for love, opened his fall show in the morgue: Girls were laid out on gurneys in white shift dresses tied in the back like hospital gowns while pairs of eerie but angelic boys in white, their hair shellacked, stood vigil. They doffed their ivory overcoats to reveal tailored jackets embroidered with wings, wheeled their pretty corpses away to heaven and the funeral began.
The week’s second all-black collection could not have been more different than the first, Alexander Wang’s heavy metal-inspired polished aggression. Browne explored the dark side of wistful beauty with intensely labored materials. It was fantastic.
“It’s a beautiful story playing with the romantic idea of mourning,” said Browne after the show, noting that the gurney girls had died of broken hearts. He also noted that the collection (and his recent funereal men’s show) was not inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Death Becomes Her” exhibition — he didn’t even see it. The bereaved wore their most spectacular somber attire crafted from fabrics that were to die for. Browne has taken fabric development to an obsessive level and it paid off. One sack coat came in guipure lace with mink trim, another in organdy embroidered in Browne’s registered tartan with mink and astrakhan. A single-button sport coat was trimmed in a stiff fray of horsehair. Double-layered jackets in different lengths worn over skirts and cropped trousers cut a silhouette of tidy melancholy from Browne’s signature tailoring. But he showed a flare for femininity, too, with a long double-collar dress with an alluring sheer neckline and seams that traced discreet womanly curves. Victorian references abounded, but Browne updated with zippers and controlled shapes for mourning garb that was quite modern.
Putting romance within a morbid context is in line with Browne’s perverse vision. It suited him and was not without its whimsical moments. Each model wore a theatrically tasteful veiled hat by Stephen Jones and some carried bags shaped like whales. “It’s an iconic, American, preppy reference,” Browne explained. “It was my way of telling people not to take it too seriously.”