Only at a Thom Browne show would a delay due to a fire marshal on the premises feel exciting. What could possibly be going on inside, you wonder while trying not to freeze outside. As it turns out, Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick is happening, as seen and processed by Thom Browne’s brain. A turn of the century operating theatre, the polish of the wooden tiered viewing pews still lingering in the air, with three enclosed spaces, and a set of three characters in each. Two men in white, their hair powdered white, circling a girl lying motionless on the operating table, in a white beaded Sixties dress, white lace tights and white flat boots, occasionally leaning in for a closer inspection. Will there be blood? Will they sprout wings and fly? Will we be able to exit this tricky maze of a set sometime this month?
Browne hadn’t visited the Metropolitan Museum’s recent mourning dress exhibition Death Becomes Her and apparently he didn’t want anyone from his atelier to go either. The Met ought to re-stage it and feature only his designs. Last season’s garden picnic of a show seemed so far away – the colour and exuberance and joie de vivre all but a memory – and this collection continued where the designer’s menswear show left off just last month. A series of mourners for the girls in white that were wheeled out of the theatre walked in dazed and wandered around aimlessly. How did Browne manage to give so much detail and texture and, well, life to an all-black collection? The eye didn’t know where to look first. From Stephen Jones’ masterful veils and tulle headpieces, some twisted like dark candy wrappers, to the fur trim on guipure and cashmere coats, the impeccable tailoring that centred around a longer jacket, often with grosgrain or black pearl embroidery, and cuffed cropped trousers, to the zips that run lengthways down a shirtdress with silk intarsia for a flash of skin… there was so much and it was all a wonder. And the embroidered turtles and satin intarsia whales swimming near the hemlines or as a leather bag– who says you can’t have fun at a funeral? The level of intricacy and skill on display was out of this world and into the next one. Oh, and some of us jumped to exit. The venue that is, not this world.