NYFW: Thom Browne, One of the Few Gems of the Week

Thank (fashion) god for Thom Browne. Do it, thank him, because Thom Browne has nearly single-handedly managed to remind us all that there is, in fact, hope for New York Fashion Week. It is no secret that the week has been a tough one so far. Freezing cold temperatures and Monday’s snow have made this season less than desirable in New York. The collections, many of which have been good, at best, have left much to be desired from some of the city’s most promising young design brands, and even more established ones, as well. And let us not get started on the number of brands that seem to have merely repurposed the wares of some of the biggest houses in Milan and Paris. 

Given all of the recent talk about the “broken” fashion system and the shift in focus towards overly staged shows (in lieu of a focus on the garments themselves), Thom Browne, with a collection that was not necessarily a testament to his best work, proved yesterday that we actually can have it all. A designer can put on a show and also put forth downright intriguing garments.

As the AP noted, “Guests at Thom Browne's runway show entered a Chelsea gallery from the snow-dusted streets of New York. Inside they found, well, the snow-dusted streets of New York. But it was the New York of the 1920s, and the location was Washington Square Park, meticulously recreated down to the houses surrounding it, which were sketched on the gallery's walls ... A succession of intriguingly dressed women came to stroll under the streetlamps in this park. They wore elegant combinations of coats, jackets and skirts, all bearing the very detailed tailoring for which Browne is famous."

We all know by now that fashion is in disarray at the moment. It has become disjointed, disconnected from consumers, broken. Consumers are growing bored. Sales are down. Schedules are in transition. Fast fashion retailers are actually managing to steal consumers from high fashion brands. This condition seems to be something that was spoken to in Browne's collection, as evidenced by the deconstructed garments. Such deconstruction took the form of broken down suiting, repurposed and put back together to form entirely new garments. Take a classic Thom Browne blazer reconstructed as a dress or a shirt turned into a makeshift evening gown with a thigh-high slit. And not to be missed: the deeply distressed and torn fabrics that made up another dress.

Despite all the art involved, the theme was actually quite practical. "It's really taking your existing clothing and making new clothing out of it," Browne said afterward. "Really reappropriating. You buy beautiful clothes and they're such good quality that you don't want to throw them away, you just want to reappropriate them into something new."

And like any Browne show, there was some wonderfully whimsical headgear, in this case repurposed neckties, courtsy of Stephen Jones. Men's ties were refashioned into tiny looping in different ways around the head. "So many people run away from wearing a tie, because they think it's so constricting," Browne said. "So I wanted to give it to the girl in a way that wasn't constricting at all."