Thom Browne Officially Enters Couture

With his 58-look, 35 minute-long Couture Week debut, the CFDA chairman put a spotlight on American fashion at the industry calendar’s most venerated showcase of artisanry and craft.

Credit: Thom Browne

American fashion has come a long way since 1973, when the legendary Battle of Versailles benefit fashion show forced the French to acknowledge for the first time that the U.S. even had serious design talent. The Battle of Versailles shifted the industry’s focus from ready-to-wear to couture in the interest of raising funds to restore the historic palace. Just this week, CFDA chairman Thom Browne put American fashion—and made-to-measure—back on the map in Paris, this time with his Couture Week debut.

The designer took over the Opéra Garnier in a dramatic fashion, filling its seats with 2,000 cardboard cutouts dressed in his signature gray suit while sentient attendees sat right onstage. There, they witnessed an evolution of Browne’s signature as his models embarked on a journey through an imaginary train station, representing travelers, bells, pigeons, gargoyles, and, for the finale, a triumphant bride. Along the way, the gray flannel suit evolved from a kilt and blazer ensemble to something more experimental: trompe l’oeil skirt suits affixed to voluminous bell-shaped wool coats, extravagantly beaded miniskirts and evening coats, and oversized double-breasted blazers with nautical embroidery and brocade.

Credit: Thom Browne

This year, though, reality is impinging on Paris’s Couture Week fantasy. The city is alight in demonstrations and protests after local police shot and killed a 17-year-old over the weekend. On the heels of men’s fashion week, which concluded on June 25, the city had just emerged from gridlock wrought by 43 shows and 38 presentations, along with conflicting diplomatic and sporting events. As Couture Week’s organizing body, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, looks to give show attendees sufficient time to get between the city center and farther-flung locales like Versailles and Chantilly, there have even been whispers of adding an extra day.

Browne devoted 20-some years to establishing and helming his eponymous label and embarking on the beginnings of couture in the form of Met Gala commissions before diving into Couture Week. “I wanted people to know me for what I do—starting with tailoring, and conceptual ideas, and giving you the story,” he told Vogue Runway. “I was just doing what I do, but heightening it to a level that was worthy of showing this week.”

Credit: Thom Browne
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