Can’t we all just be friends?
That was the uplifting message in Thom Browne’s pre-fall men’s collection where natural enemies — a bear and a salmon — were playfully reinterpreted as friends rather than foes. The designer used this iconography on a number of pieces in the collection, including his trademark skinny suit in an exploded plaid, as well as his now-signature bags initially created in the shape of his wire-haired dachshund Hector that he’s offering this season in leather-shaped fish and bear shapes. “They’re playing together rather than the bear eating the salmon,” he said during a video preview of the collection from his New York studio.
This upbeat spirit was a theme throughout the collection, which also served to continue Browne’s journey of reworking men’s wear codes. The offering included a selection of gender-fluid items that updated the definition of masculinity. This was evident in the large number of skirts for men — everything from pencil skirts in repp stripes borrowed from men’s ties to pleated versions in schoolgirl plaids. He also reimagined the pleated skirt in a striking trench with a pleat insert in silk.
“I think they look really good,” he said of the skirts, “and they’re also very realistic. It’s not like I’m putting an idea out there that is not real. It’s very real for the person coming to my collection.”
It also serves to seamlessly blend masculine and feminine references, which is “very interesting right now,” he said. Browne said he doesn’t view it as a trend, but rather a sophisticated and strong message that “speaks to individuality.”
He drove that message home by the creation of corsets that he used in place of vests for three-piece suits. “It’s a typically feminine idea incorporated into men’s wear,” he said.
Browne blended fabrics ranging from military-weight cashmeres and custom camel hair to flannel and boiled wool as well as Shetland and Donegal tweeds. One standout look was a Boy Scout-inspired short suit in a patchwork assortment of plaids.
Elaborately embroidered toile patterns, created by hand in the designer’s studio from 10 scenic drawings of the bear and the salmon, were used for intarsia and patchwork patterns on topcoats, suits and bomber jackets.
Browne also offered up a selection of true formalwear, ranging from plaid skinny single- and double-breasted tuxedos to patterned corsets replacing cummerbunds in beefy knitwear short suits.
“In the times we’re going through, it’s nice to show people dressing up,” he said.
He said his plan is to hopefully show men’s and women’s together in March and eventually go back to presenting each gender individually. “But this year, it’s been hard to make it work and logistically get everything done,” he said.
But he did — and his ability to create a collection that ranged from dress-up to playful was just what the world needs today.
Launch Gallery: Thom Browne Men’s Pre-Fall 2021