But here we are. Specifically, the Palais Garnier where Browne revealed not only could he hold his own amongst the more familiar couture names but had also found, artistically speaking, his sartorial home and making history as the first American to do so since Ralph Rucci back in 2009.
As with every Thom Browne collection, this one told a story too: one that integrated the American on Paris soil. The Palais had been transformed into the bare bones of a train station, with two male models armed with luggage escorting Alek Wek onto the platform. All three clad in familiar house codes of grey tailoring.
The genderless, or at least gender fluid, collection that followed was a transAtlantic journey of gothic Americana intertwined with motifs of travel done with Browne’s signature surrealist stamp in his native shades of grey. If anyone has asked Browne if he is a fan of steampunk, the answer is yet to be revealed, but there was no small amount of inference in the collection to this genre.
Heavy felt jackets were reworked into skirts, the broad shoulders working like a crinoline on steroids. Or at least a crinoline designed by a linebacker. Those shoulders were replicated, and exaggerated, in a series of coats that cocooned their models while creating a cleverly wrought trompe l’oeil of tailoring across the front.
Adding detail to the collection was the alliteration of aforementioned travel motifs: nautical elements like anchors and ropes, patchwork lighthouses and starfish or bells and bell-shaped accessories that were a nod to the constant chiming of the bell overhead that marked the passage of time slash final boarding call. And of course, Browne’s familiar daschound.
Underpinning every design in the collection was the same blueprint: the grey suit. Even the most abstract of pieces could be traced back to its sartorial architecture whether it was a taffeta ballgown, a base layer shirt with printed tie or Browne’s take on bridal: a sheer, glittering white coat dress with elongated train (pun obviously intended).
Why it has taken so long for Browne, whose garments veer between the abstract, the inspired absurd and razor sharp, minimalist tailoring, to participate is anyone’s guess but hopefully this isn’t his last.