Thom Browne's Fall scenario—the hunter and the hunted—could also be read as man against nature. And it had an ending that could be construed as happy. "The animals prevail," said Browne at the time. This season, the elaborately staged competition was between man and machine. "They all lose in the end," was Browne's cheery summation this time round. That makes man a two-time loser. Has Browne got something against guys? Legions of the Unconvinced would cast their eyes over his designs and come to that conclusion, so…er…idiosyncratic is his approach to menswear. But connoisseurs of his oeuvre would see instead a radical, experimental revision of the male form. It's almost as though Browne has been making a new man for himself. He's fashion's Dr. Frankenstein, with all the idealism and horror that implies.
Utopia and dystopia: Browne in a nutshell. Today, they came together in a collection that, he claimed, took inspiration from TRON, the 1982 sci-fi stinker that became a cult. Ahead of its time, actually, with its life-is-a-video-game story. Browne isn't really a video game kind of guy. More likely little Thom was glued to the puppet fantasia Thunderbirds, with the young heroes of International Rescue thronging round Lady Penelope in her pink Rolls-Royce. The models with their perfectly sculpted plastic masks, articulated stiffness, and jaunty caps did indeed look eerily like International Rescue. Like puppets, in other words.
The scenario was this: Browne's arena was filled with a field of human statuary, 23rd-century robots patrolled by guards bearing lightsabers. Around this compound paced two antagonistic tribes: one sculpted from human anatomy stripped to its elemental musculature, the other all points and spikes and pixilated definition (the ghost of Klaus Nomi hovering over the compound). The fun was, as usual, in plumbing Browne's intent. Yes, he was enjoying molding classic American fabrics like seersucker, tweed, and cotton into anatomical show-and-tells. But how could he alchemize this obsessively realized, minutely detailed (sixty to eighty pattern pieces in each jacket!) compendium of all-but-couture techniques into a collection of clothes that would bring men to their hind legs in appreciation? Why bother? The robots who sat motionless for hours while the fancy-pants paraded around them were the ones wearing the classically cut and fabricated clothing that would most likely end up in stores. In the end, it felt a bit like we'd been snookered by a master magician. Magic relies on distraction. Color this crowd distracted.