Bag For Two

…and three. And other sartorial delinquents of Thom Browne

The autumn/winter 2022 show is for both people and bears—teddy bears. In the middle of the show venue, Thom Browne sat a classroom (or conference?) of hundreds of teddy bears, all togged in Thom Browne, naturally. Mr Browne has, of course, a thing for toy animals, and they are there, such as the dog-bag Hector—only this time, it comes with two handles meant for a pair! Toy, as metaphor, extended to his beloved New York, to which the show is also homage to, as well as its inhabitants. It isn’t a surprising expression of pride. Mr Browne has always found kinship through his work with those whose outward appearance we might call gila. He calls his home “an island of misfit toys”. And those outsider-oddballs are dressed accordingly, totting bags that are the plush-toy embodiments of pets, as well as those that are more vehicular. Quite a sidewalk of curiosities.

Mr Browne has largely pivoted his designs on the suit, which brandishes his flair for tailoring that is often described as “fastidious”. He is partial to shades of grey, and patterns and textures much tethered to menswear and is even more favourably inclined to include lots of sport coats, especially the uniquely British regatta blazer. But in his hands, they have less in common with those adopted for the sport of rowing than the blazing pieces worn by ringmasters of a cirque (this season, a madcap schoolmaster, perhaps?). Preppiness may also be the seeming effect, but subversiveness is clearly part of the equation, for the Thom Browne fan is no collegiate stiff.

The show could be considered a two-parter: the first, what would be ‘standard’ (not disparagingly) Thom Browne. The regatta blazer with a particularly constricted tailoring that is very much a part of the brand’s recognisability plays its versatile role. The pieces are designed to be gender-neutral—teamed with skirts, no-issue staples among the guys. Most are pleated, with inserts that could be club ties. Or, paneled with what could be fancy washing machine outlet hoses, in clashing fabrics. Some of the skirts are above the knee and worn over demure wide-cuffed culottes. On the whole, the outfits are enchanting, with a digestible schoolhouse prim that is possibly even more appealing, perhaps, in the US, where the wearing of school uniforms is not adopted.

But Mr Browne has to have fun too, and when he does, so do we. In the second part, the clothes take a fantastical spin, crossing too closely over to the absurd, tempered by their couture-ness. There is no denying the skill level required to make these outfits that defy the shape of the body: massive quilted coat with lobster pincer to glove the hands, giant golf ball-as-bodice for a sweater, bulbous protuberances on lean dresses, multiple sleeves on one-piece outers, a box shape of a toy soldier for a top, and the immense crinolines that even Scarlet O’Hara’s Mammy would find challenging to handle. Despite their wow-inducing effect, it does beg the question: would all these aesthetical aberrations be possible without the path layed out by stalwarts such as John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo of Conme des Garçons? Regardless, they are all in time for next week’s Gilded Glamour at the Met.

Screen grab (top): YouTube. Photos: Don Lecca/vogue.com

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