For his return to New York, Thom Browne staged a post-gender garden of fashion delights in front of one of the best-dressed crowds of the week, including Dan Levy and Russell Westbrook, both utterly fabulous in the designer’s skirts.
With his partner Andrew Bolton curating the upcoming Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute exhibition, “In America: A Fashion Lexicon,” Browne wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on how clothing has become easier to wear over time.
So his set was a magical garden with an open frame house, where “two elderly bachelors” appeared wearing the Edwardian-era S-curve silhouette that forced a woman’s hips backward and bust forward, like a large-breasted pigeon.
In a narrative loosely based on the J.G. Ballard short story “The Garden of Time,” the couple is trapped in beautiful decay, down to their garden statues. Those statues were cleverly disguised models wearing capes embroidered with hundreds of silk flowers, of course.
As the story unfolded, the models cast off their capes, pruning all that excess embellishment to reveal Browne’s not-so-classic tailoring in new, more minimal and modular shapes, including a sleeveless vest with squared-off shoulders, a strapless A-line trouser dress and a double-breasted half-sleeve skirt suit. In herringbones, seersuckers, pinstripes and prince of wales, the pieces were exquisite-looking, if simple.
Some missing and half sleeves were a hint of what was to come — 20 finale looks inspired by the Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which have lots of missing appendages because of damage over time.
Each tromp l’oeil look was based on an actual sculpture, and created in vivid color as the statues were originally. The garments were made by painstakingly hand-stitching multiple layers of tulle to mimic shadows and folds — an A-line cape dress in lavender tulle, a slim-fit top and low-rise skirt in orange tulle, a cap-sleeved top and high-waisted skirt in teal tulle.
They looked remarkably modern, even if the work was difficult to see, especially compared to Browne’s typically more hyper-embellished collections. Such is the challenge of simple design.
It didn’t much matter anyway. From the besuited Thom Browne animal mascot greeters in the lobby to the penny farthing bikers waving goodbye, it was entertaining. And there’s nothing more American than that.