I recently spoke with a friend in London, the author of a particularly strong viewpoint on Thom Browne, which opened this discussion below. I will preface this by saying that his piece on the subject resulted in a wide-ranging discussion regarding the designer, as often is the case, however the article also generated a few significant viewpoints.
Below is my take on the subject, exactly as originally presented to him.
This is a bit of a sensitive issue. I want to address this properly and completely. You truly are passionate about fashion and I feel have a great personal talent. I believe you understand it wholeheartedly. I want you to think about what is at hand here in terms of menswear as it regards new styling and the Thom Browne fuss, think about it over time.
The Thom Browne affair is about movement to a degree; you nailed part of that down with this line, “Some see Browne as a fad, a reaction to the lack of invention in menswear over the past 50 years that has led critics of fashion to rally and chorus that our designers have run out of ideas.” Nonetheless, Browne has opened up new forms; new ways of considering cuts, and frankly open discussion. It has made all of us who are interested re-evaluate our wardrobes.
I am not one for most conceptual items but the inherent issue here is the concept of new forms or ways of thinking about menswear. The problem is that menswear must change, but it cannot abruptly change, hence this reaction around the world to Browne. It is too structured a discipline to be radically altered in such a rapid fashion (no pun intended.) I am however interested in new forms. I recall being in a show in Los Angeles in the 1980s that included the great Japanese designers in menswear at the time, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamomoto, Rei Kawakubo for Commes des Garcons. Those items were stark, architectural clothes that were new, intelligent, and very chic but at the time in a similar manner many first received them with a skeptical eye. The difference with those items was that although radically new – they were very clean and highly wearable – that is the huge difference they could be worn today. The Japanese items were workable and wearable in my view for a man from day one.
Thom Browne’s work is so very radical yet to the point of a man risking being pointed at - and that alone may turn some away, but we have to remember many great established classics of today started out this exact way. It is true that much of Thom Browne’s work may not be broadly appropriate (and that is the key here - appropriate) for a number of situations. I do not think his items are meant to be versatile clothes in that way. Nevertheless, many conventional items of today also fall into being highly inappropriate (shorts at funeral being one example.) In certain circles, I think that his items can be worn with great style and panache (it would take a severe level of confidence to pull off.)
I say I give any man credit that has the balls to wear Thom Browne and walk down Madison Avenue (that level of confidence deserves respect.) And that is why Browne is therefore a bright point on the menswear map, and remains an enigma to many. The pictures you have posted for this piece are clear representation of the fact that this is really a vast experiment. I personally think some of his creativity may need to be tamed for translation; but that stated do not just reflect on what you see on the runway, understand that the runway shows are at times overall concepts for the press and pubic to consider - not literal translations to be worn on the street. One look at the pictures above proves that fact, a bit too circus yes, but that shock and awe value I am sure is intentional.
He is breaking ground on issues of fabrication and cut. The circus atmosphere I believe is meant to entertain new ideas. I see items I could wear from this collection, but most of it is a bit much, even for me. Yet the structures we see may well translate into future forms at which point he will be considered a genius.
We have to keep that in mind.