Strictly Subversive: The Best of Thom Browne’s Shows

Fun, freaky and thought-provoking

Oki-ni lovers of Thom Browne are buying his beautifully tailored Oxford shirts, neat, grained leather wallets and classic, navy sweatpants by the bucketload. But his timeless, more traditional products only make true sense to the wearer when they understand the wider context of the brand. Every Thom Browne fan knows that when they proudly show off that tricolor tab on one of his immaculate items, they’re also serving a major dose of subversion.

Yes, you can see Browne experimenting through the items themselves, with pieces like the penguin bag, the tennis crewneck and the ski cardholder, but the true breadth and depth of the American designer’s imagination can only really be seen in his catwalk shows.

Since his first SS06 show at New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, where he put his unusually tailored collection on two of his favourite indie bands (back when indie bands were a thing), Browne has used his shows to demonstrate his sense of humour, wide references and surreal vision. They’re the kind of shows that end up splashed across the tabloids with a confused, nervous and hateful headline about how fashion is ridiculous. Even true fashion critics write as much about his spectacles as they do his clothes.

Browne has had models ice skating, hammering together wooden houses and being zipped into sleeping bags on camp beds by dorm monitors. He’s held shows at France’s Communist party HQ (designed by Oscar Niemeyer), Paris’ École Militaire and the legendary Art Nouveau restaurant, Maxim’s. There have been flash mobs, satyrs, sharks, seagulls, scarecrows in kimonos and whole woodland scenes stitched out of traditional menswear fabrics.

Fashion critic Tim Blanks has routinely summed up Browne’s shows best, saying, ”There has always been something intangibly perverse in the way he stages his shows“, explaining that the easiest and most fun way to watch them is ”to submerge yourself in a warm sea of free association.“

Words by Stuart Brumfitt

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