The first outfit was announced by the swell of the fourth movement of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, a piece of music that would tug at the heartstrings of anyone who was, say, swept away by Visconti's Death in Venice at an impressionable age. And that's really the only kind of age that interests Thom Browne: the moment when one's sense of one's own difference from everyone else finally throws caution to the wind and shoots off on an intensely personal trajectory. "I had fun," the designer announced cheerily, after a show that confounded the essential constructs of modern menswear (let alone American sportswear).
His work is so utterly sui generis that one is compelled to decompress from one's standard outlook and marvel at the force of will that proposes a passementerie shorts suit (and we do mean short) with button-down, thigh-high socks as a viable alternative to a man's quotidian garb. "Propose" really is the operative word, because the show was, as ever, a smorgasbord of suggestions on Browne's part, almost any one of which could be adapted for a customer not quite ready for a full-scale plunge into Thomworld.
The collection's key jacket shape was derived from the Norfolk, originally a nineteenth-century hunting style, here shrunken and exaggerated till it had an almost Empire line. The same ambiguously transformative impulse married tunic and parka (tunka?) in a silvery, stiffened A-line poncho that the model doffed to reveal a fitted three-piece suit in the same fabric. Dangling suspenders only served to emphasize the droog-y subtext. It's this interplay of outré associations that gives Browne's work its power. Watching old movies on a trip to Japan got him thinking about male geishas (he originally wanted his models to be completely hobbled when they moved). And this is the designer who is now working in the belly of the Brooks Brothers beast. It's simply not possible for menswear to ever be the same again.
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