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Thom Browne Pre-Fall 2021 Menswear

In this year of questioning and chaos, few qualities are as inspiring in a leader as certainty and trustworthiness. (Americans feel this especially, coming off four years of hard pivots and lies.) Who in American fashion is more certain, more worthy of your trust, than Thom Browne? He is a perfectionist, an Olympian of tailoring—and as a follower or customer you can trust that each season will come with red stripes and blue ones, gray suits and navy ones, a bit of sport, a bit of subversion, and a playful two-strap bag in the shape of his beloved pup Hector. Browne’s most appealing quality in this topsy-turvy time is that he does not reinvent the wheel each season; he offers consistency with a sprinkle of new delights. No wonder his sales have been holding steady amidst a global slump.

Zooming in from his gray office, wearing his gray suit, on quite a gray New York day, Browne said that his mid-season collections are both a pure expression of his creativity and a time to really focus on product. Every look is designed top hat-to-tailcoat, and the 30 on view here each tell their own stories about Browne’s career-spanning interests. The opening pair of looks carries on the designer’s work of translating womenswear to menswear with Shetland plaids and American rep stripes cut into grosgrain-tipped coats, jackets, corsets, and pleated skirts. (Long before Harry Styles stepped into a dress, Browne and his cult were baring calves in these flattering kilts. In fact, sales of skirts for dudes are up.)

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The rest of the collection plays against two motifs. One is the story of a bear family hunting for salmon before a long hibernation that is represented in masterful intarsias, hand-drawn toiles, and leather bags. At the end of this fable, Browne notes, the bears do not eat the fish—instead they live in harmony while a rabbit family watches on. The other narrative is about the joyful movement of pleats, best expressed in a pleated trench in army green and the many skirts on display. The pleats are a continuation of the long Deco lines of Browne’s spring 2021 outing, just given a touch more volume for hot mid-summer days.

There is a condensed third story about athleticism, as well: Suits are cut in football mesh, offering a strange sportiness—maybe sexiness?—to the strictness of the tailoring. As much as Browne can layer on pieces, so can his muses strip them off: Moses Sumney appeared shirtless in a brand video this summer; Kristen Stewart prefers to wear Thom Browne with only a lacy bra. These looks are, in the end, just a suggestion of how to feel certain in your own clothes. That’s where the trust comes in; Browne has such a potent vision it can seem impermeable, but he trusts you to give it a new life.

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