Thom’s ‘Foolery’

Thom Browne “fool the eye” Goddess Dress
(All photos

Thom Browne does not fool around. Whatever it is he is embracing at the moment, he has put his whole body and soul into, and he goes whole hog (or in this dog lover’s case, I guess I should say, whole dog). His shows always make me think of another Tom, Tom Hanks, whose lead character in “Forrest Gump” uttered this iconic quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”. Well, when you walk into a Thom Browne show, you never know what you are going to get. You only know that you will be surprised, it will be wildly imaginative, original, inventive, and it will not resemble anything else in New York.

So, yesterday afternoon, when I walked into Skylight Modern, what I first noticed was that the photographers (who were stationed at the far east side of the room), were all clad in matching white lab coats giving them the look of mad scientists. I was told by one of many adorable Thom Browne clad employees this was to give them a “uniform look”. I then noticed the colorfully tiled floor which was made to resemble a large rectangular swimming pool.


The run of show listed 30 different ensembles, but instead of a slow progression, the models all came out at the same time. It all began as a highly visual, madcap, colorful Mod, 60- esque, sea of graphic floral printed, tent shaped caftans made of overdyed silk gazar with silk satin embroidery in red, white and navy duchesse seaming; each accessorized with a matching bouffant hat, an oversized tote bag (or one of Thom’s signature dog bags), and fabulous sunglasses. The gals were joined by a men dressed as a fabulous bird and cat (complete with fantastical headpieces made of fur intarsia). They helped the models discard their rather cumbersome coats to reveal their sleeker trompe l’oeil dresses, and often prodded them to take their turn walking on the runway.

Trompe l’oeil

This season, it’s all about trompe l’oeil, which literally translates to “fool the eye.” Each and every piece was actually one piece, and often included what looked like a separate shirt, tie, vest, jacket, coat, and skirt. I mean really, when you think about it, given that we are all so strapped for time, how modern is it to be wear what appears to be several layers, but getting dressed actually takes one quick gesture?

Roberta di Camerino iconic designs on display at Palazzo  Fortuny in 2011

As someone who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, and a vintage aficionado, I am more than familiar with and have long appreciated Roberta de Camerino’s iconic and signature trompe l’oeil handbags, dresses, and coats. Giuliana Camerino who founded the Venetian based house, passed away at the age of 89 in 2010 and her museum worthy pieces remain covetable collector’s items. They are timeless and quite frankly, get better with age. This might be a good time to search them out.

But while Guiliana’s bags were made of sumptuous velvet punctuated with rich bold gold hardware, she used polyester stretch jersey for her signature dresses. On the other hand, Thom focused on his usual highly innovative, mind boggling and luxurious fabric mixes that included combinations of basket weave linen, bonded cotton, cotton oxford patchwork, double gazar, Duchesse silk, basket woven coated oxford, silk hand loomed tweed, over dyed sheared mink; all punctuated with various forms of embroidery and applique.

Cashmere striped swimsuits

At the end, each model disrobed to reveal a one or two piece halter top swimsuit in cashmere knit with engineered red, white, and blue stripe. Aha, the swimming pool. I now get it! Meanwhile, the show began and ended with an ultra-fabulous trompe l’oeil “Goddess” dress made of cotton seersucker, oxford, sequins, and bugle bead hand embroidery. It literally had Thom Browne muse, Amy Fine Collins’ name written all over it (she was among the attendees) and I would be surprised if she didn’t show up somewhere fabulous wearing this.


Yeohlee with models wearing her Fifth Season buy now /wear now pieces
in black and white

Earlier in the day, Yeohlee staged a formal runway show that was small, intimate, quite pared down and minimal, and took place in her chic West 29th Street retail space/atelier. Yeohlee’s designs have been featured in a retrospective by The Museum at FIT and is in their permanent collection; she is also included in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Victoria & Albert Museum, Kyoto Costume Institute, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her motto has long been, “minimize waste; maximize use” and that pretty much sums up the 13 chic, easy, practical, multi-functional pieces. Speaking of waste, she also believes in not wasting people’s time. The show was called for 2 pm and it began at about 2:05 which means it was more than half hour early in fashion time lol.

Black and white silk georgette crew
khaki cotton silk metal wrap skirt

The focus was on innovative fabrics rendered in a chic neutral palette of black, khaki, navy, grey, and white, with the welcome sighting of several pieces in a graphic navy and cream buffalo plaid and brushstroke print. The first outfit out, a black and white silk georgette crew and khaki cotton/silk/metal wrap skirt, was illustrative of her ability to take what seems like simple basics, and make them un basic through perfect cut.

 Khaki cotton silk and metal jacket grey navy white stripe poly tank
black and white silk georgette sarong

As always, the jackets and coats are exceptional. Standouts this season were a navy and white brushstroke cotton lawn duster, a navy and cream buffalo plaid jacket and box top, a coat and jacket in khaki cotton, silk, and metal shown (the latter was shown with a black and white silk georgette sarong and grey, navy, white stripe cotton poly tank), and a black polyurethane-coated jersey pod coat shown with a white cotton shirt and cream silk georgette tulip pant which was part of Yeohlee’s Fifth Season – which is buy now/wear now.

Navy and cream buffalo plaid box top black microfibre culottes

Among those in the audience, Patricia Mears, Bobbi Queen, Margaret Hayes, and Marylou Luther who was wearing an all-black pant ensemble by Yeohlee. The Fashion Group Creative Director told me that more than half of her clothes are Yeohlee’s (the others are by Ralph Rucci and luckily, she still has some of her beloved Geoffrey Beenes). When I asked which shows have stood out for her thus far, she quickly said: Altuzarra (it was different thanks to interesting details yet relatable and wearable); Prabal Gurung (she cited the fabulous knitwear), and Yeohlee of course. She was looking forward to Thom Browne who is always on the top of  her list.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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