For his latest women’s collection, Thom Browne took his audience for a stroll around Washington Square in the early part of the 20th century. There were wintry trees, mist, a dirt footpath, and an imaginary character who repurposes men’s clothes into feminine pieces — trousers into a stole, coats into dresses, ties as hats. The household dog into a purse? Well, that truly would be macabre, but Browne does have a dachshund named Hector, and Hector inspired not only the doggy bags (in smooth black calf or wirehaired) but also embroidery motifs.
I met with Browne later in his showroom to ask him to unpack his thought process for just one look. It was a tough call, since I loved many of the styles, in particular a long, sleeveless black dress with a boned white underskirt (it recalled things from Yohji Yamamoto 20 years ago) and a navy jacket that seemed to morph into a long-haired beaver stadium coat with a striped hem. But I settled on a navy pleated cardigan worn over a pleated gray dress.
To me, the pleating suggested folios in a book, but Browne said the effect was based on a pleated skirt turned inside out. However, for this outfit, each pleat of the cashmere jacket required an individual pattern, and then the pieces were cut and sewn together. That’s 140 pieces. And what may not be evident is that the edges of the pleats are finished in tiny gold bullion cord — roughly 80 yards of it. The sleeveless gray dress is also in cashmere, but in a lighter weight.
By the way, I asked Browne about the idea behind the tie hats (the work of the milliner Stephen Jones), and he said he wanted to simplify necklines. Hence collars are rendered in trompe l’oeil, and ties magically float up around the face.
Browne said he found the historical period itself liberating, and may stay on this path for his September show. Smiling, he added, “I had so many thoughts going on that I ran out of time in the end.”