Thom Browne, like the rest of us, is living in limbo in this early 2022, not knowing how or where he will show come February.
But one thing he is sure about is that his pre-fall collection was one of his most personal yet — bringing people into his bedroom, or at least into his bedroom decor.
It was also one of his most delightfully decorative, with the celadon green and air force blue handpainted floral wallpaper from his new Upper East Side town house inspiring everything from the embroideries on shrunken blazers to the mother-of-pearl inlays on spectator platforms.
Per usual, his mix of checks, plaids, intarsias and embroideries was expert, and his color sense combining tonal greens and blues particularly lovely. Floral house slippers and a Hector-in-his-pajamas bag added even more of a sense of sweet domesticity to the collection, signaling perhaps that a move into the home category is coming soon.
Also newsworthy was how he turned his attention to the classic, unstructured tweed lady suit of fashion yore, with a shrunken cashmere-wool salt-and-pepper tweed jacket, overcoat and pleated skirt that could give Coco a run for her money. (Browne’s version had his silk repp stripe fabric inset in the pleats.)
“I love how timeless it is…it’s almost something to become known for,” he said coyly, stoking the imagination of what he could do at a European heritage house. (Not that he needs it with parent company Zegna now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. You don’t get much more big time than that. And business has been great, Browne said.)
His accessories also keep getting better and better, among them the many riffs on the duck boot — as a shearling-lined loafer and a mary jane with cable-textured rubber soles — and new bag shapes, including a pillow-clutch with gold chain handle.
The softening of his aesthetic only broadens its appeal, so his Type A tailoring was tempered with a plush pale gray shearling jacket with four woolly stripes on the sleeve; relaxed and rumpled shirtdresses in the layering mix; a size-inclusive lobster-dotted drawstring skirt and nostalgic preppy intarsia cardigan, and charming Fair Isle sweaters with bird motifs.
Many of the season’s pieces could live in wardrobes by themselves, apart from the Thom Browne fantasy world, because they’re just great clothes.
That said, there are few designers who have created such a recognizable brand universe from scratch (surely it will have real estate in Decentraland someday), and Browne never takes himself too seriously, walking the line between preppy and surreal this season with an amusing crustacean fascination. Besides being a laugh riot, his armor-like lobster tail skirt and matching pincer mittens could be the best things yet to ensure stylish social distancing in this pandemic era. Beware the claw!