The Accidental Patriot: A Fashion Story of Epic Proportions
It’s January 21st 2013 on a crisp, clear inauguration-day in Washington D.C. The ever-stylish Michelle Obama is keeping warm in a stunning jacquard navy checked swing coat so regal and aristocratic that it becomes an instant classic- akin to that of Jackie O's iconic inauguration ensemble; an ivory Cassini coat and Halston pillbox hat. ‘Twas the sumptuous coat seen around the world and it’s designer’s equally elegant moniker was immediately at the tip of everyone’s tongues. Thom Browne was no longer just a fashion icon( Browne was named the CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year in 2013 and 2006 and named the GQ Designer of the Year in November 2008) he was now a FLOTUS-approved national icon. Browne describes the extremely fortuitous event as one totally left up to chance- (and although to humble to admit himself- refined taste). Browne was approached as one of many designers to design an outfit for the first lady’s inauguration, but the Browne only found out the day of-via e-mail no less that he was the chosen one. But, this coup d'etat is only one- albeit epic-thread in Browne’s distinctively patriotic weave of a fashion fairy tale. Take for example Browne’s All-American- Preppy prints that cover everything from suit jackets to shorts, the fact that everything that he creates is made in America, or the designer’s calling-card a strategically placed red, white & blue striped grosgrain ribbon. And Browne himself is something of a revolutionary- especially for menswear. The Pennsylvania-born designer was a Paul Revere of the sartorial sort, rebelling against Wall street’s late-Nineties, early-aughts shlumpy work-casual and saving the suit from extinction by changing it’s staid proportions and breathing life into it once more. Browne’s vision for the suit tends to be made from classic, almost uniform-like materials but in radical proportions and avante garde silhouettes. Trousers are always tapered to skim the leg, hemlines are either above the knee or the ankle(preferably worn without socks) and suit jackets are shrunken. So despite the playful prints and collegiate fabrics, there is nothing at all 'twee’ about Browne’s aesthetic vision. And the designer approaches womenswear with that same rigor and dedication to proportion. Although Browne (an economics major who never attended fashion school) designs to provoke with his designs, he in fact created “the new normal” for proportions in menswear as well as lending a confidence and covered-up sophistication- a polished, masculine modesty if you will- to womenswear that has long been lacking. His collections aesthetic can range from vintage, romantic, Gothic, militaristic, surreal, fantastical, preppy and Victorian; but what always remains constant is their head-turning proportions and elegant quintessentially American distingué.
"THEY CAN'T HURT YOU, THEIR STYLE WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, BECAUSE THEY'RE ALL SAFELY DEAD..."
a few years ago I sat next to Thom Browne at the Waverly Inn, when that was a thing. the Waverly that is, not sitting next to Thom Browne. i’m pretty sure that's still a thing. i could tell it was him right away, mostly from the grooming and the ankles–I wasn’t totally focussed, mostly because Bruce Weber, Fran Lebowitz, and freaking NAS were also there, but i’m pretty sure he was just as normal looking as Mr. Nastradamus. this then, this undead parade, this trip down the rabbit hole led by the Ghost of Helena Bonham Carter, this that is TOTALLY freaking me out, must have come out of someone else’s brain? someone NOT innocently wearing a gray flannel suit?
SHINee’s ‘Everybody’ concept was moving, beautiful, bold and intellectual and, I feel, one of the standouts of k-pop’s 2013. Using Thom Browne’s Spring/Summer 2014 military menswear runway looks complimented with tiny, thoughtful changes and additions - piercings, heavy gunmetal rings and most noticeably, replacing Thom’s striking red lipstick from the runway with an almost metallic nude lip, heavy blush and defined eyes. Modelling semi-pros SHINee did much for this collection - they truly conveyed its beauties, its colors, its tactile textures. There was much talk in the fashion world about this being a collection with heavy political overtones - models marched out and raised a white flag to the sound of The Beatles’ 'All You Need Is Love’ - perhaps the New Yorker designer was commenting on America’s questionable LGBT military policies? However, when asked for comment on this subtext, he simply replied: “I love uniforms. I’ve been wanting to do them for a while.” Thank Goodness he got around to it.