In the sand-covered The Shed theater at Hudson Yards, a giant paper biplane crashed down the Thom Browne Fall/Winter 2023 runway. Above it, planets and stars hung like lanterns. and around him, white chairs circled. The set transported viewers to a gray desert, located somewhere between Earth and space. Although devastating, it was quietly beautiful.
Browne has not appeared in New York since September 2021. For the past two years, he has appeared on the Paris calendar, but following his appointment as CFDA president, an exhibition at New York Fashion Week was mandatory.
In the first row, American luminaries, wearing brand names and heritage tweeds, demonstrated Brown’s cultural impact. Whoopi Goldberg engaged in a fascinating conversation Stranger Things favorite David Harbour, while Ella Emhoff, an American fashion designer and member of the second family of the United States, took her place. Pusha T sat down with Queen Latifah, not too far away Youby Penn Badgley and Aquamanby Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. It was a celebration of American culture, in the flesh.
The lights dimmed and a voice made clear the hint of the show The Little Prince, as the famous words of author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry echoed throughout the venue: “Only with the heart can one see aright, all that is essential is invisible to the eye.” Following the story of the novel, an ethereal pilot and the eponymous Little Prince carefully maneuvered the sandy stage. The former wore Browne’s avant-garde look in an alien suit with inflated proportions. the title wore a straight, gold-silver dress with a four-striped overcoat.
Six silk intarsia dresses represented the six planets visited on the Little Prince’s solitary travels, each pumping out serotonin with maximalist, colorful patterns. As they took their places around the downed plane, a legion of oversized silhouettes, known as “The Clocks,” were edited to tell time.
Shoulder-rope coats in full-length tweed with grosgrain ribbon met similar iterations made in chiffon and shaggy mohair, while sports coats were mixed in matching fabrics. Pants and skirts were “super low” and made mostly in various versions of chunky gray knits. Standing out, the Clock Hector Bag wrote the time on the models’ hands and the heels used clocks for height.
The reconstruction determined the next looks, entitled “The Asteroids”. The suit was cut, mixed, reshaped and dressed in unusual ways. The shirt found new meaning in dresses and ties served new stylistic purposes in unusual locations. Star embroideries appeared hand-stitched on suits-turned-shirts-turned-dresses on striped wool flannel, while many other classic shapes were flipped or turned inside out. All over, chunky astronaut boots anchored the eerie mentality of the line.
The Little Prince once again stole the spotlight, falling to the ground wistfully over a lost love. In time, Precious Lee emerged as the character’s angel, going off-script to save the desert noble who wore a laced dress of white solid tweed with a reconstructed and layered vest on the front. After her heroic performance, pairs of models paraded the final carousel to Josh Groban’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It was Brown’s happy ending.
On each seat, the designer left a box of chocolates. After the show ended, Browne ran into the crowd to present his partner Andrew Bolton with a larger version. Finally it was Valentine’s Day.
Peruse Thom Browne’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection in the gallery above.
Elsewhere at New York Fashion Week, AKNVAS FW23 experiments with classic American design tropes.