Pin It
Thom Browne AW16 Magic New York
Thom Browne AW16Photography Evan Schreiber

Thom Browne revisits 1930s New York at AW16 show

Staged within a recreation of Washington Square, NYFW’s most eccentric designer presented a collection based on the idea of destruction and recreation

Thom Browne – one of the closest things to an avant-gardist that New York has to offer – brings life to NYFW. His shows, his collections, his entire brand, for that matter, are real gems of the city’s fashion industry. He reminded us of the fact yesterday evening when he staged his AW16 show. This season, Browne took us to Washington Square with a set featuring pine trees, park benches and an eerily creeping mist. The time frame: roughly a century ago – the designer cited The Great Depression as a reference. 

Browne doesn’t scream, his work does not broadcast notions of greatness; it doesn’t have to. Instead, NY’s showman opts for quietly thought-provoking and transformative collections. And transformative they certainly are – in more ways than one. Consider how he deconstructed and reconstructed (the buzzwords of this collection) his staple suiting garments, repurposing them into entirely new garments. Browne took his overcoats, blazers, and buttoned-up shirts apart to create something completely different. A grey flannel jacket, for instance, was wrapped to create a skirt; the arms of a coat became part of a dress and in other instances, he took the garment as a whole, sewed it up in a new way and voila! You have a new garment. We saw him do this with a fur-trimmed overcoat-turned-jumpsuit, and a downright appealing one. 

Such experiments did not work perfectly every single time, but why should they? Browne is turning suit jackets into dresses after all. The important thing is that he took the risk, he pushed the boundary; this is something that is not always at play in commercially-focused New York. Not even close. Having said that, in many more cases than one, the result was a relatively seamless creation that exuded romantic femininity. Also in the mix were more practical garments, such as a knitted cable sweater-esque dress, a few riffs on Browne’s classic suiting, a pleated V-neck dress with a panelled torso and a matching jacket.

Like any Browne show, the millinery was something to write home about. Stephen Jones – Browne’s longtime collaborator – took what looked like neckties and twisted them this way and that way, as if they were blown in the wind, and created hats of sorts. Also, keep your eye out for the dog-shaped purses which, rumour has it, were inspired by Browne’s own dachshund. 

As for his thoughts on the collection itself, Browne’s is firmly standing against the wind in a market that is very much consumed as of late by the practice of fast fashion, of buying lots of clothing and discarding after several wears. This is in significant contrast to the old-world way of dressing and consuming that Browne was referencing. In his words, “You buy beautiful clothes and they’re such good quality that you don’t want to throw them away, you just want to reappropriate them into something new.” With this in mind, who can say that Thom Browne is not a practical designer? Not me.