Thom Browne loves a gender-bending look, but the first nine models to take his Fall Moncler Gamme Bleu runway weren't having us on: They were honest-to-God women. Their presence served to announce that Browne will be extending his Gamme Bleu collection into womenswear as well as men's. Once the mild shock of that set in, the waters were more or less untroubled. Browne has been working to advance himself in womenswear for the past few seasons—most prominently with the ready-to-wear collection for his namesake label—and Moncler's recent IPO has likely furnished the Italian company with a bit of capital to spend. There's the why. As for the what, it was a case study in what's good for the goose is good for the gander. The entire collection was covered with a thick coat of argyle, which was enough to clue you in to a golf theme. Browne's men wore diamond-quilted argyle-printed jackets, blazers, knickerbockers, and knee-high socks. The girls wore much the same, with a few more skirts and something between a leg warmer and a spat covering their shoes.
Browne is a master of taking a theme and worrying it down to every last detail, so the argyle here came in every imaginable fabrication, from sequined to woven to knit, and on one ethereal garment from which sheer diamonds fluttered like butterflies. It's hard to accuse him of not dotting every i and crossing every t. But for whatever reason, the collection didn't have the force of revelation the situation might have warranted. It might be that, for a designer whose menswear flirts at the border of womenswear (and whose womenswear flirts at the border of men's), bringing the sexes together just makes literal a point he's already spent seasons suggesting. For an ecstasy of head-slapping weirdness, you had to turn instead to the soundtrack, which alternated string music with snippets of Shakespeare. The reader of such tony source material turned out to be none other than the torpedo-breasted "working man's Monroe" of the 1950s, Jayne Mansfield. That tidbit prompted the reaction the collections seem to court: What? Wow!