For the last 11 years Thom Browne has shown in Paris—still a rare feat for any non-French designer and a testament to his remarkable craftsmanship. But for spring summer ‘22 he returned to New York City, showing his collection as part of the official NYFW schedule this afternoon. The reason? To support his partner Andrew Bolton, the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose latest exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” will open with the Met Gala this coming Monday. “I think it is so important that all American designers recognize the importance of Andrew’s vision,” he told WWD back in April. “This celebration of American fashion will be such a great showcase of the true talent that exists here in America.”
It was impossible to watch the show—over livestream, of course, America is still not allowing non-US citizens into the country—without thinking about where Browne fits in the legacy of American fashion. The early days of his career were spent working under masters of elevated American casual: Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco. When he eventually launched his own label in 2003, he was spurred on by the notion that a well-tailored jacket and trouser had become something of a novelty in the era of ‘jeans and a T-shirt’. He wanted to bring the lexicon of European tailoring into day-to-day American dressing.
His remarkable journey of ascent since then, one which has seen Browne establish himself as one of New York’s most important designers, were helped by support of the CFDA, of whom Browne is still a member. His clothing is also inextricably linked to key moments in America’s political and pop cultural history, from the inauguration dress he designed for Michelle Obama in 2012, to the opulent, red feathered gown he (and 35 members of his team) hand-crafted for Cardi B to wear at the 2019 Met Gala. Most recently there was the internet-breaking kilt-suit Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy wore to the 2020 Emmys, where he took home a casual four gold statues.
Levy was perched front row alongside Jeremy O. Harris, MJ Rodriguez, and other stars of the New York arts scene for the spring summer ‘22 unveiling, which kicked off, naturally, with a model in a large horse mask riding a pennyfarthing bicycle down the runway. The theatricality didn’t stop there. “In a grand beautiful house in the center of a beautiful garden,” a narrator read over the speakers as the show began, “a couple of elderly bachelors had retreated from the outside world.” The garden had been long forgotten, until now. The collection itself had a remarkable narrative arc too, the slow shedding of layers from boxy floral capes through to trompe l’oeil dresses printed with the chiselled abs of marble gods (Browne was reportedly influenced by the statues that fill the Met).
Browne began the show with a minute of silence for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which took place 20 years ago to the day. It was a fitting reminder of all that New York City—and the creatives that make it great—have endured, and evidence that there is, perhaps, no better time to be celebrating American fashion’s past, present, and future, than right now.