Thom Browne 2024 Couture: Unfinished Symphonies in Muslin and Gold

June 25, 2024

Text by Mark Benjamin
Imagery courtesy of Thom Browne; Polaroids courtesy of Patricia Buren; collage courtesy of Kevin Pineda

In museums and private art collections, the finished works by blue-chip artists often blur together. Eventually, you might find yourself more intrigued by initial sketches or drafts. Like a Picasso sketch or a Richard Serra drawing, sometimes it’s these initial formations of an idea that captivate. It’s within this concept of process that the Thom Browne Couture 2024 collection begins…again and again.

Quintessentially Thom Browne, this season cites the toile (a draft material for couture) as muse — the mostly beige and cream color palette reflects this. Opulent bursts of gold, silver, and crimson punctuate a few creations like fireworks in a sandstorm. Monsieur Browne delves deep into materiality here, drawing upon an A-Z of design materials including muslin, tweed, organza, tulle, chiffon, Swarovski crystals, sequins, horsehair, and gold bullion in varied forms throughout. The exceptional use of materials might give you pause, were it not for the eye-watering reinterpretations of historical creations barreling down the runway from another century into close view.

Look 44

Look 44 traverses the Edwardian and Elizabethan eras with its sculptural high collar, capelet, and elaborate frog button closures running the length of the dress into a mermaid hem that inspires awe. A cropped jacket with elongated sleeves in incrementally layered raw-cut muslins, tulle, and horsehair crowns an ankle-length corset dress. Appliqued raw-cut fabric rolls in muslins, horsehair, and red, white, and navy silks create a time-traveling masterpiece.

Look 42

M. Browne pushes the limits of embroidery with a metaphorical dovetailing of body and clothier. In Look 42, one half of the ensemble is painstakingly embroidered with bugle beads to reveal the anatomy of the wearer, while the other side features light horsehair mirroring the form, creating a second skin. An elongated trench coat in dark horsehair tweed, hand-painted with frayed edge finishing, layers over a classic sportcoat and backstrap shorts in lighter horsehair tweed — a sartorial palimpsest and a subtle reference to Browne's Spring Summer 2015 show, which explored male anatomy.

With Thom Browne, you sometimes have to squint to glean the humor in his designs. Each look this season features a new rendition of the signature Thom Browne knee-high boot: golden cleats. An instant Americana fan favorite, these cleated boots have the illusionary effect of lifting models off the runway, much like the ‘Armadillo’ shoe achieved for Lee McQueen. Here, the sports metaphors from the press notes spring forth to life.

Look 1

Thom Browne’s signature elements — the big green, uniforms, retro 1960s red, white, and blue ribbons, and his endless obsession with the blazer or shrunken grey suit — are turned inside out and exploded into a regal duvet in the opening look. Look 1 presents an elongated bal collar coat embroidered with optic white bugle beads in a brick formation that fade into clear bugle beads, adorned with red, white, and navy cricketing of bugle beads and lovebirds. A patch pocket sportcoat and pleated skirt in white cotton bobbinet, embroidered with a degradé of clear bugle beads and seed beads, echo the tricolor motif.

Look 14

And after that last photograph of the crowds filling the 1960s state fair? The final frame on the camera roll: an immortalized vintage shot from the beach — there she is in an iconic red two-piece swimsuit. In Look 14, this vision has been preserved within the realm of M. Browne, with red paint hand-painted onto a ribbon tweed dress — its frayed raw edges apparent. A patch pocket overcoat in muslin tweed, partially embroidered with white braided tipping, shelters a crew neck top and low-rise ankle-length hobble skirt in herringbone ribbon tweed, both adorned with the hand-painted swimsuit motif.

Look 4

And that couture tweed tennis skirt, Look 4, that you just caught a fleeting glimpse of, is a delight when paired with a crochet tweed cardigan. An oversized patch pocket sport coat in heavy muslin, with organza spaghetti woven into the front panel, drapes over an organically draped athletic mesh cropped constructed polo shirt. The high-waisted pleated skirt, adorned with stitched cornelly organza spaghetti, releases at the wearer’s right, forming an ‘unfinished’ fringe — a nod to the collection’s work-in-progress ethos.

Serena Williams
Emma Chamberlain
Evan Mock

And with that, we bid adieu to M. Browne and his guests amid his latest amusing state of affairs, leaving much untold. The opulence of this collection is perhaps better felt and lived in than described. It’s from this initial wellspring of individuality that every line of beauty is traced and transformed into every hem, seam, and stitch. For M. Browne, it’s a one-of-a-kind expression — a knowing smile before he embarks as a perennial couture Olympian in the City of Lights.