Thom Browne is the master of the grand gesture. At his spring 2022 presentation, the audience could be carried off in awe in so many directions: Pegasuses rode penny-farthings, a couple of bachelors haunted a raw wood house, models turned from shrubs into statues—and that’s just what happened on the runway. In the front row was just about every relevant artist, author, and athlete, from LilHuddy to Russell Westbrook to Jeremy O. Harris to Dan Levy to the star of Browne’s fall 2021 collection, Lindsey Vonn. Everyone was in TB, everyone looked smart, elated, and happy to take in a show.
What was great about seeing Browne back in action in three dimensions was being able to see the small gestures, too. Those rainbow-color tulle dresses that made up the finale, with trompe l’oeil drapery and abs, were not painted, but dozens of layers of tulle built up like a topography of the human form. Teddy Quinlivan’s long sheath had an arm sewn to the torso, and the models who walked in the show’s first passage were layered in at least four Browne tailoring separates. This show was not only awesome for its theatricality but for its scale; other designers would struggle to make a single garment to Browne’s standard. Browne made about 200.
Each of those 200 shirts, pants, skirts, suits, jackets, bags, shoes, and hand-made gray flowers was, in not-so-coded language, a love letter to American fashion. Browne moved his show back to New York for one season only in support of his partner Andrew Bolton’s exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” opening at The Met this week.
The presentation began with a voice-over about a couple of bachelors stuck indoors, looking out over an aging garden. Classic statuary, the tradition of carving a marble block into a contrapposto David, charted the show’s three parts: part one, twenty Platonic suiting ideals; part two, the pure marble slab as tunic and maxi, fastened with a hook-and-eye up the back; part three, a trick of the eye, a flex of artistry, full force in tulle.
The exact Greek statues Browne visited were in The Met, and the sense of pride, honor, and craft in this show—and the reverence for Bolton’s artful curation—was beyond evident. At the end, the show’s two bachelors chained their gates, unzipped each other’s gray wool dresses, and orbited each other, never quite touching hands.
Passion thrives in the littlest gestures; Browne’s show was full of beauty to pluck your heartstrings and stoke your sartorial flame.