>Thom Browne is for me a bit like the marmite of NYFW. Or whatever yeast-y spread equivalent that would be. Oh wait, Americans don’t put yeast-based spreads on their toast. Which just about affirms my point about Browne’s singularity. You either love it or you hate it.
There’s an established patter to his shows now that people are either enthralled by or cynically roll their eyes over their theatricality. There’s a theme. There’s an elaborate set. There are pre-ambling dressed ushers dotted all around to flavour the mise-en-scene (this time, it was one pair of suited and booted legs sticking out from underneath a house a la Wizard of Oz). Then Browne works and reworks his theme, ramming it down your throat until you’re almost suffocated by its presence.
That’s not a slight on Browne by the way. Give me suffocation any day over sleep-inducing haze. I’m grateful for Browne’s solidly singular stance, existing in its own microcosmic realm, crafted to death and worked until there’s no work to be done. People might ask: “Well, what’s the point of it all?” The point is in its very existence. To push it, when others don’t push. To appliqué, patch and embroider all those Japonaiserie motifs of pagodas, cherry trees and Edo-era women into submission – all those hours of work presented to us in a snail’s pace, thanks to the geta-brogue platform hybrid shoes. To present his uniform at its most elaborate state, which of course will then filter down into the natty shrunken jackets, skirts and shirts that sit on neat rails at his stockists (although in recent years, Thom Browne’s show pieces have been making their way into the real world).
Whether its batty funereal Victoriana or Kill Bill-lensed Nipponica, the extremity is such that it’s hard to ignore. Even if you err on the hate camp. Everyone at least will have left wondering. The grand dame sensei, in her jilted bride veil and sinister eye-patch closed the show and went to the head of the classroom. Were these beautifully bound-up students about to be punished? What insane act will take place within this wooden husk of a classroom? Only Browne knows the ending. Both lovers and haters were left hanging.