That Thom Browne—who lives to provoke and feeds on runway spectacle—is debuting a Resort collection (typically sales-driven and unshowy) is a bit of cognitive dissonance striking enough to be measurable on the Richter scale. The tremors don't abate when you learn that Thom took as his theme "classic resort" and the totems of prep. Rest easy. Though Resort is a commercial collection, Browne promised, "I never look at anything commercially." The purpose, he said, was to introduce themes he'd continue in September (and, before then, in his men's show in Paris in July).

Besides, what is anything so enshrined as resortwear and preppiedom but fertile ground for the usual Brownean subversion? A foamy cotton jacquard covered with whales was the sort of thing you might see in a Lilly Pulitzer catalog. Until, that is, you look closer and discover that some of the whales are actually whale bones and carcasses. Joining the whales (and their remains) were floral jacquards, crayon-colored madras, and embroidered lace, fashioned into modest skirts and worn under printed silk peignoirs or Browne's signature tailored jackets. (His "school uniform" jackets, for the record, are made in a Japanese fabric that is used for most of the standard-issue uniforms for actual Japanese schoolchildren.) The custom-developed fabrics made their way into accessories, too, from structured bags to scarves to pumps (the last worn with matching, hand-knit socks in piqué), and for the first time, the designer added women's frames to his licensed sunglass line. You'd have to admit that the whole looked, if slightly daft in the usual and appealing Thom Browne way, quite wearable. Browne promised more theatrics come September. And in the meantime, there were touches of wildness, like the madras sun hat whose diameter rivaled the rings of Saturn. But provocative though he may be, Browne is no mere provocateur. The hat would be produced, he promised, and if experience was any teacher, would sell.