Thom Browne’s Toy Story – WWD | Wender Mind Kids

Thom Browne's Toy Story - WWD

NEW YORK – Thom Browne playful.

Despite being surrounded by models, colleagues, mood boards, clothes racks and accessories here on Friday night in preparation for his Fall 2022 show, the designer was in a happy mood. But that could be because the show and collection revolve around toys – for kids and adults alike.

His inspiration was the island of Misfit Toys from the animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. “In a way, I’ve always felt that New York is an island of misfit toys,” he said. “It’s a place where you can stay true to yourself and feel good. People are accepting so much more and it’s such an inspiring time.”

This resulted in a true conceptual collection, based partly on children’s toys such as slinkys, jack-in-the-boxes, wooden blocks and toy boxes, while the other half was based on adult versions of toys.

“So basically the adults come to the show to find their corresponding toy, and their corresponding toy represents their true selves,” he said, adding, “Toys are so individual and unique.”

Thom Browne Preview
Lexie Moreland/WWD

Browne said he didn’t scour old toy stores for parts to use in designing the line, opting instead “to remember what was on our minds when we remember children’s toys.” Everything is loosely based on this reference. I love having the freedom to create something that isn’t so literal.”

He said the collection consists of “beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces” that incorporate the use of traditional British, Irish and English tweeds and repp fabrics – hallmarks of the designer collection for the past two decades – but “brought it into my world”.

During the preview, Browne revealed his first toy/adult duo ahead of Friday night’s show. Both looks included elongated white shirt dresses and multicolored plaid and striped silk repple pleated skirts – his conceptual toy look styled on a voluminous white crinoline with small lobster embroidery under a statement jacket adorned with custom tweed, repp and plaid multicolored embroidery and a fitted is a bulbous knitted hat, oversized repp stripe pony toy bag and platform brogue boots with children’s blocks as heels.

“The whole thing is actually a whole look that spirals out,” Browne said. His appropriate adult look wore a tailored plaid coat and trousers, a tall top hat, a Mr. Thom bag and lace-up ankle boots with grosgrain platform heels.

The duo illustrated the designer’s message through a joyful balance of conceptual individuality, touches of whimsy and craftsmanship, as did his second toy box-inspired look, featuring a fully lined and crafted trompe l’oeil wooden toy box for the lid and a Voluminous corset skirt and petticoat with red, navy blue and white silk repp stripes.

Although the pieces are Browne trademarks, they are also familiar. “These are classic shapes that I’ve been making for 20 years and I love them and they haven’t really had to change much, they still feel really new every season.

“It was important to also do something that puts a smile on people’s faces. I think there’s something important about the story of how to find your true self, but also fun to do with it,” Browne said, hinting at Friday’s show installation, which featured 500 teddy bears donning his signature gray suits in a conference room-inspired setting surroundings will attract . “I like it when it’s a multi-layered experience.”

Although fall fashion week is already over for most brands, the timing of Browne’s show is intentional. It is incorporated into part two of In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, which opens May 7 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and is curated by his partner Andrew Bolton. The second installation is titled “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” and will be housed in the American wing of the museum.

“Andrew did such a great job with his shows and really showed the world the importance of American design,” Browne said. “I think really interesting ideas are born here in America, and I like to show the world that America and American design isn’t just commercial. I want to be the advocate for people to see that you can have a conceptual idea and make conceptual collections, but also have a business. You can have both and I think it’s important for the world to see that.”

As a matter of fact. Browne, which is now majority-owned by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, achieved sales of 264 million euros last year, an increase of 47 percent.

Though he’s built an established business, Browne says he often wonders why other American designers find it so difficult to break through and succeed.

“I think about it all the time because there are really, really talented people here who have so many interesting ideas,” he said. And from his own experience, he believes that the key for any designer looking to break through is to have a point of view and stick to it.

“I was very careful to create an image for people to know what I stood for,” he said. “But it took me ten years to do that. And I think that’s the only thing you have to realize if you want to be a designer.”

Of course, it wasn’t all a walk in the park, Browne said. “We almost went broke in 2009,” he said, but he pulled himself together and stayed true to his vision, and it finally worked out.

“The last thing we need is another designer or more clothes, so you have to do something good,” he said. “For me it was the gray suit, but the proportions were different than what people had done before. At first nobody liked it – for the first three or four years. I’ve had friends say, ‘Why should I buy it if it doesn’t even fit you?’ But you have to stay true to yourself [your vision] and commit 110 percent to it. If you’re just doing it to get rich and famous, then it most likely won’t happen.”

So although he plans to return to Paris in June to show his menswear collection, he will always remain an “American designer in Paris”.

He said Bolton’s shows for the Met showed the world that there was fashion talent in America, and that Browne was just happy to be a part of that story.

“Andrew did that,” he said. “He showed the world that there is so much evidence.”

In anticipation of the exhibit opening next week, the museum’s major fundraiser, the Met Gala, is taking place Monday night. However, Browne would not indicate who will be seated at his table with him at the event or which celebrities he would be dressing.

“It’s going to be an incredible group of individuals,” he said. “We all get along and can get along well and they’ve been customers or fans for a long time. There will be new and old ambassadors.”

With so much on his plate, Browne hasn’t had much time to think about how he’ll mark his 20th anniversary next year either. But rest assured, he’ll come up with something.

“It feels like yesterday and it feels like forever, but it’s gone really quickly,” he said. “I remember working with Brooks Brothers and Moncler and other really important moments along the way. What I was able to do is very special and I still do it.”

And its longevity can help convey an important message to the American fashion community. While 20 years is a long time and should be celebrated, he said: “You still have to have a strong business behind it. Our business is doing well and in recent years it has been better than ever, but there is still so much to do.”

His goal for the next 20 years is to continue while introducing the Thom Browne brand to a whole new clientele. “People still see us in a niche, but there are so many more people that should be opened up to this world,” he said. “We have to make sure we stay true to the gray suit of 20 years ago, but we can do anything. There are no borders.”