Thom Browne is a tricky one to review, especially succinctly. On one hand, his acumen for showmanship is second to none. He’s a legitimate entertainer in a sea of runway sameness (he also custom-fitted Michelle Obama’s navy dress and coat for the swearing-in of her husband yesterday — and that’s certainly something to be proud of). Yet on the flip-side, some are of the mindset that such spectacle runs the risk of trumping substance. Yes, Browne’s cropped tailor-made suits and chic basics (his red, white, and blue trimmed button-downs are becoming almost as ubiquitous as Ralph Lauren cable knits) are keystones of his brand, but it would be nice to see a collection exploring wearable options — akin, actually, to his women’s pre-fall ’13 collection.
Browne opened his fall ’13 men’s collection in Paris with quilted pants and a fur, pseudo-bolero look that set the tone for the luxe abstraction that was to follow. Unlike his previous shows, a clear theme wasn’t totally obvious, which is a welcome change, considering the designer has previously overextended himself into silly novelty terrain (cue: rainbow whale monograms!). Applied throughout, a star pattern soon became apparent — folksy Americana in context, but also smacking of Islam decoratif. These were octagonal star shapes you’d see iterations of adorning everything from mosque doors to sparkling new Doha skyscrapers. See? Obtuse associative thinking. Christian crosses, too, could be found throughout.
The collection continued, in at least fifty shades of gray (plus navy), notably in sure-sell briefcases and eyewear, which seems to be doing very well for the label. While his concepts are still based in unreality, Browne’s evolution has moved into an equally gray area between the gimmicky and the great.
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Images (l-r): Two images, Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images; Marcus Tondo/InDigital | GoRunway; Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images