Ah Thom Browne - what would fashion week be without you? Elsewhere designers and brands are fighting to rethink their shows, streamlining them, cutting budgets, combining menswear and womenswear. But Browne is slowing things down - he’s demanding our time rather than catering to the speedy pace of fashion. His meditation on the grey suit - the same 15 grey suits rendered in different ways - lasted for what felt like hours. It was actually about thirty minutes. But when you’re used to watching fashion shows that are over in seven, that’s a long time.
Browne is obsessed with form and proportion. He has made his name by considering and reconsidering these things - shrinking suits down and selling them worldwide. This was the ultimate tribute to his obsessions. An ode to tailoring and an ode to the meticulous, detail-driven way that Browne designs. For their first lap, models emerged in grey body suits furnished with the outlines of suits - some double-breasted, some single. They were decorated with lines of fabric-covered buttons. One featured over 1000 of them - what poor soul hand covered and attached all of those? That thought occupied me for much of the show. But Browne likes to push the possibilities of fashion in the context of the runway show - is it wasteful? Is it true craft, true theatre? Some would argue the former, but I’m inclined towards the latter. His shows are about considering the possibilities, the potentials he doesn’t get to explore in his more commercial offerings. Indeed, the models in this opening section wore black leather hoofs - fantastical, terrifying. Safe, this certainly wasn’t.
Next, models appeared with suit panels and parts blown up and attached like flat, comedic forms around the body. One thought in part of Comme des Garçons and Rei Kawakubo’s experiments with clothes as sculptures and enveloping forms, and in part of the current trend for Talking Heads-esque oversized jackets. But mainly, one thought of the craft - the work and detail that goes into making the perfect tailoring that Browne prides himself on. There’s a trend in fashion for behind-the-scenes videos that prioritise make and craft - how a bag is constructed, how a couture dress is beaded. This was Browne’s version of that, using fashion theatre to suggest skill and work.
The last looks were the final forms - the pièces de résistance. More conventional - less exciting even - in their form. But relevant and real. Browne has played before with multiple versions of the same garments. For Autumn/Winter 2016, each outfit also appeared in triptych: the first in rags, then a vague level of distress, then perfect and pristine. The message was the same; great clothes rely on layers and multiples. Layers of meaning, layers of work, layers of tradition. Fittingly, the runway featured layered stacks of grey flooring. Browne is always building.