It’s such a pleasure to be invited into Thom Browne’s world that most of us in the fashion industry would do anything to be there — including, as was the case on Friday, make the trek to New York’s Javits Center (all the way on the west side! the horror!) — and do so with smiles on our faces. That’s because Browne always makes the journey worthwhile: Whether an enchanted garden, a Versailles fever dream or his take on Noah’s Ark, Browne is the king of turning fashion into theatre.
For Fall 2022, Browne’s world was a room with exactly 500 teddy bears, which just about every audience member was hoping would be up for grabs after the show (no such luck, alas), sitting in wooden chairs lined up in precise rows. We were then introduced to the “chairbear” — that would be the model in the teddy bear top hat, naturally — who was to rule the proceedings from his perch at the top of the stage. It was to be, as Browne’s show notes indicated, his “teddy talk.”
First came a parade of Browne’s “favorite New Yorkers,” 25 looks packed with Browne signatures. Plenty of gray suiting with piping and paneling in bright, collegiate colors; houndstooth and plaid pleated kilts, which revealed mismatched striped interiors; thick cable knits sweaters with Browne’s tricolor stripes at the neck and sleeves. While these autumnal looks are layered to the hilt, they’re relatively tame for a Browne show. Everything is inherently wearable, especially when broken down to individual pieces.
But then, we were told, it was time to meet the toys: 25 looks which serve as funhouse mirror versions of the 25 which came before. Shapes are extreme and distorted, featuring hoop skirts or misshapen protrusions. (In some of the latter, it’s hard not to draw comparison to Comme des Garçons, especially its famous “lumps and bumps” collection.) They play with some of the most classic preppy motifs, like lobsters blown to giant sizes and blazers haphazardly stitched together. The accessories really stand out: Hector bags with the tail dragging at the end of a slinky coil, shoes perched on wooden block platforms, top handle briefcases in teddy bear fur.
At the end, all the models filed out, New Yorkers paired with their toy selves, where they finally got to meet each other. The toy selves, according to the voiceover, are the true selves, the inner selves, of the New Yorkers. “A lifelong search… a lifetime of questions… asking and searching… questions finally… and completely answered…,” according to the show notes.
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Now, I mean no disrespect to Browne or the fantastic collection he presented, but the real highlight of the show came at the finale. As the models began to file backstage, Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” started up, and the chairbear proceeded to perform a barn-burning lip sync performance for the crowd (both human and teddy bear).
By the end, when the chairbear hauled a laughing Browne out for his bow, even the typically stoic fashion set was whooping and hollering. It was, perhaps, the best runway finale of all time.
See the complete Thom Browne Fall 2022 collection in the gallery below: