Following the completion of a business degree, acclaimed menswear designer Thom Browne did not pursue a run-of-the-mill corporate pathway. He instead turned to the precarious life of acting before eventually landing at the design and merchandising departments of Ralph Lauren. An unorthodox course for one of New York’s quirkiest innovators, certainly.
Browne has enjoyed the occupation of a stellar position at the forefront of ‘Americana’ tailoring-with a noticeable and oftentimes severe twist-and with good reason as his latest collections suggest.
The SS08 show opened with a cluster of would-be lifeguards ambling nonchalantly down the runway wrapped in boldly-striped towels. Soon though, typical of Thom Browne, we found them dropping the towels to reveal similarly striped one-pieces in an offsetting grey.
This marked what was to come, a thoroughly unusual affair,a 60s surfer breeze of cropped pants in stony greys halting suddenly at the ankle-another uniquely Browne trait, jackets in similar shades and also nautical blues with sleeves of bizarre proportions, ending at the bicep.
An array of lively coloured plaids made an appearance, their colour dispelling plaids’ innate connotations of conservative old farts. Browne’s humorous disposition was apparent in the crotch panels and shorts so short they could be mistaken for go-go dancer uniform.
This offering featured a delectable satire of sorts, in the form of rosette suits. How does this one explain this most unconventional of phenomenon? Well picture a bed of artificial roses fashioned into a floral behemoth of a suit and you’re on track.
Browne’s fondness for circus-freak frolics surfaced in his recent FW08 showing. Oversized overcoats shrouding all but the socks akin to bandages with their billowy austerity appeared regularly throughout. ‘Billowy austerity’? Surely an inherent paradox but all the more suitable a description, in that case, as it is the contrasts and contradictions of Browne we address here, the robust boots and aforementioned overcoats combined with the emasculating, puerile knitted hats, the undeniably humorous and overt theatricality fused with the steely seriousness of a predominately grey palette and stern silhouettes.
Where plaid had reigned in SS08 the argyle dominated in all its conservative yet decidedly barmy glory in FW08. And where overgrown roses were found previously, gargantuan things of the avian kind stalked the circus ring. Applause is, undoubtedly, due.