Thom Browne is constantly making the same person. They are shorts suit wearing British school children in straw hats and saddle shoes. The outfits never fit and the models always gangle out of them like pieces of spaghetti in doll clothing.
His menswear can borderline on the tedious and frequently can flirt with being boring—for him—since he loves to fuck with his now signature forms. You want to see something else even though the same old same is more than good enough. How else can these shorts be made? Is it always school children? What about a different hat? A different fabric? Maybe it’s just different styling? Can it just be something different and not self-deriving? Do I even want “difference”?
A step ahead, Browne answered these questions while sticking to his formula this week with New York Fashion Week Spring 2016 presentation. The collection of 29 outfits are uniforms worn by little girls walking to school during a lightning storm, only to get struck while nearing the classroom’s threshold. The models set out to class with topless hats that long standing braids reach out from. They’re bunny ears. They are constantly raised hands. They are peace signs poking from the crown.
The ensembles are similarly jolted. This go around Brown has created minimalist patterned quilt works in shiny metallics and ginghams, geometric ocean scenes of busy black and white, fuzzy florals and seersucker shoots, and cool color stories that are so subtle they might actually just be white. His pursed up, tweaking girl is center storm as fabrics and patterns ram into each other on their bodies. The collection is folded tapestries disguised as pleated schoolgirl skirts; sliced and diced coats sewn into one; baby blazers and baby ties thinned to the neck; and—most notably—oxford shirt-dresses patterned out in the same way. A tiered pleated wedding gown with straw hat veil? Stop.
No, Browne has not done anything extremely new for himself but he truly hasn’t done the same thing he has done: he made his commonalities thrilling. It’s easy to slump and think Browne is being boring when he does things like reinvent a lifetime of funeral wear and craft an old lady garden party where acid is in the tea. Browne is being Browne which is all he should ever be.
Now, to craft ourselves into these overdone yet underprepared schoolgirls. That will be the fashion riddle of the springtime.