Wednesday, 17 February 2010

NYFW: Thom Browne

Thom Browne playing with proportions inside the opulent setting of the Armory. Backstage shot by Shawn Brackbill for Dazed Digital.

When I decided to make the trip New York for this seasons shows there was really only one show that I was dying to see, Thom Browne. The volume of menswear design talent showing in this city is undoubtedly growing and exciting but the shows tend to lack the theatrics that make them truly memorable. Thom Browne however is something else. Browne is a designer known as much for his show theatrics and sense of humour as his shrunken tailored silhouette. I was lucky enough to take my place inside the grandeur of the Armory and Browne did not disappoint. For A/W10 Browne fondly glances back to the golden age of New York and collegiate life but brings it right back in to the modern day as he plays with proportions, prints and mixing tailoring with sportswear. As I watched the show I somehow managed to don a wry smile even though my jaw was touching the polished wood floors.

Browne might be known for his shrunken silhouette but inside the grandeur and opulence of the Armoury, the theatrical designer pushed himself and menswear forward with a terrific display of diversity. Proportions have always been a key to Browne's aesthetic but here he combines elongated knitwear with chunky ski lodge jumpers, priestly stoles with tightly corseted outerwear, long dresses with raccoon fur tails dangling like fringe, even the accessories were blown up with briefcases the size of suitcases and huge fur clutches. All of which combined to remind us that Thom Browne equates to much more than an ankle revealing grey flannel suit.

Ever since he launched his own label in 2001, has of course received many plaudits but he has also received a great deal of negative reviews - there is a constant criticism that the designer is making clothes that look weird on anyone who isn't Thom Browne... I have however seen many Thom Brownes walking the streets this year. His designs have slowly eroded many of our beliefs on what a good suit should be and he has made us question many things about something so simple (or so we thought) as the practical, 'safe' option, the suit. He has done this to such an extent that the same people who initially laughed at the proportions of his creations are now desperate to replicate his shrunken aesthetic, constantly feeling self conscious if their ankles are covered. This demonstration of elongated proportions indicates that Browne is trying to evolve beyond the grey flannel suits that are his claim to fame.

Backstage shot demonstrating the mix of patterns. Chunky ski lodge knits side by side with houndstooth tailoring. Shot by Shawn Brackbill for Dazed Digital.

Under the respected cloak of DazedDigital, this excited fanboy was fortunate enough to grab a few words with Thom Browne after the show. I have to confess that I was pretty darn nervous and more than a touch intimated by Browne's perfect attire but despite my dry throat and sweaty palms I still managed to ask him a few questions about the show. The full interview can be read over on Dazed but I'd like to share one interesting remark with you here. Browne is a designer who frequently looks to sportswear for inspiration and this show alone revealed influences of Collegiate favourite including rugby, fencing and football. I asked him about the importance of sportswear to his line and whether or not his collaborations with Moncler have enhanced it. He responded with the following: "Well, I've always used sports as an influence. The Moncler collaboration has certainly enhanced it but as a designer I've always been interested in sportswear. Sports for guys is a great starting point because even if you do something quite crazy it can still be understood." A wonderful example of this in this show were the long dresses with elaborate zips decorated in Browne's signature flag of red, white and blue at the back of the dress. This demonstrated as much of a nod to the ferocious sport of fencing as it did to an experiment in to femininity. Many designers are inspired by sportswear but few designers dabble within in with such a strong sense of irreverant. As I said above, Browne managed to plant a wry smile on my open jawed mouth and certainly did not dissapoint with his vision for AW10.

Two of my favourite examples of Browne playing with proportions.


Michael said...

Often bizarre, but constantly fascinating from a creative point of view. I had him pegged initially as a bit of a one trick pony (although it is remarkable the extent to which that shortened leg has become mainstream). I have to admit I've revised that opinion over recent seasons.

Laurence John said...

i love Thom's wearable stuff (the neat grey suits and cardigans) but i find his catwalk stuff infuriatingly pretentious. the floor-length jumper looks ridiculous (just one out of many). why create unwearable clothes like that ?

Style Salvage Steve said...

Michael: Me too. It has threatened to break out from the shrunken suit for the last couple of seasons but this collection really represented something truly new and exciting.
Laurence John: I love the neat grey suits and cardigans but it would not be much of a show if that was all he ever showed. For me, menswear shows lack the theatre of womenswear shows so I enjoy when someone like Thom Browne comes along.

Laurence John said...

Steve, theatre is one thing... i don't have a problem with the most outlandish costumes if they serve a function, e.g. for a surreal film or piece of performance art. but are we expected to judge these catwalk creations on the grounds of wearability ? most of them don't flatter the body. most don't even work as a piece of abstract composition.

would you walk down the street in that floor-length aran jumper ? i bet you wouldn't... because it looks ludicrous.

Style Salvage Steve said...

Laurence John: I don't necessarily judge a show by it's level of wearability. That long jumper will never filter down into a store but it demonstrates a shift in Browne's proportions in an extreme and obvious way.

Laurence John said...

Steve, if that jumper symbolises a shift in proportions then i will wait to see what happens to the familiar Thom Browne proportions, before casting further judgement on the matter. but i'd be willing to bet we won't see Mr. Browne himself in anything so silly (or even approaching it) ... you'll notice he's always immaculately turned out, despite what he sends down the runway.

but i understand that you see the catwalk show as more of a theatrical event. it's just always irked me.


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