Thom Browne closes out NY Fashion Week with a black-and-white flourish and a nod to Edgar Allan Poe


NEW YORK — Thom Browne, ever the master showman of American fashion, closed out New York Fashion Week on a blustery day with his own wintry landscape, blanketing the floor with fake snow and presenting his latest inventive designs to the words of Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling “The Raven.”

With celebrities like Janet Jackson and Queen Latifah in the front row Wednesday evening at a theater space on the far west side of Manhattan, Browne did what he does best, displaying feats of intricate tailoring and taking his time to weave a tale. His soundtrack narrator was Carrie Coon, star of “The Gilded Age,” who recited Poe’s bleak story of a lover mourning his lost love, Lenore, when he is visited by the black, thick-necked bird who constantly repeats, “Nevermore! Nevermore!”

Nobody in fashion is a better storyteller than Browne, now chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, who over the years has placed his shows in mock cathedrals, magical gardens, even on faraway planets. As always, Browne’s models did not strut a runway but instead were players in his fantasy, walking deliberately and serenely around a wintry wasteland filled with snow and bare trees.

As the audience filed in, one of those “trees,” a man on stilts in a huge puffer coat, or gown, stood silently. Once the drama began, four young children emerged from that coat — as if he were a darker version of Mother Ginger from “The Nutcracker” — eventually sitting in the snow as the poem began.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,” Poe’s words went, “as of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” The procession began. Of nearly 50 looks, everything was in black-and-white — typical of Browne’s color discipline — with a little gold at the end.

The Poe theme was everpresent. In the first look, an imposing black headpiece made it seem like a raven was perched on the model’s head. In the second, black birds emblazoned a white coat that itself covered a black jacket and skirt.

It was a hugely inventive array of coats and jackets and skirts and trousers — and sometimes no trousers at all. There were solids and checks and prints. Some ensembles were fully formed and others had a deconstructed feel that is a longtime design theme of Browne’s. Each ensemble was a work of layered and intricate tailoring, the hallmark of a designer who recently was invited to show haute couture in Paris.

Some silhouettes were long and sleek, others boxy or cinched tightly at the waist. Bags included a number of variations of the Hector — a dog-shaped bag in honor of Browne’s pet of the same name. The bags were covered, said the label, by a removable layer of waterproof vinyl, also used on the shoes.

For whimsy, the word “Nevermore” from the poem was emblazoned on the backs of a few jackets. And there was a rare hint of skin for the label — a sheer black blouse covered with roses and a sheer skirt. As for the hair, it was hair-raising — literally. Many models wore two braids that defied gravity, reaching upward toward the sky.

“The Raven” hardly ends on a cheery note. Indeed, Coon ended it with frightening screams of “Nevermore!” But for Browne and his audience it was Valentine’s Day. And so, as he’s done before, Browne turned his post-show bow into a romantic gesture, carrying a huge red heart-shaped box, presumably of chocolates, to longtime partner Andrew Bolton, star curator at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The crowd seemed to launch into a collective “Aww.” Then, as people prepared to file out into the freezing night, many first stopped to tromp on the fake snow and greet the tall human tree — who obliged by shaking his branches.


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