Thom Browne is that unique animal, a designer who invented a unique articulation of American prep and its irreverent tailoring tradition then used this voice to build a mighty fashion house. Along his way, animals – most famously of all his miniature wirehaired dachshund, Hector, but many others too – have become central to the expression of Thom Browne’s world. Off the top of my head, thinking back, there was the flannel menagerie of his F / W 2014-15 menswear, the outrageous sharks and parrots of S / S 2017 menswear, the penguin punctuated F / W 2017-18 womenswear, S / S 2018’s incredible Anais the unicorn…
“Ha !,” says Browne down the Zoom: “You know, as you’ve said that I’ve been thinking that I hadn’t realized quite how much I’ve referenced animals in my collections. But you’re right. And even on the more commercial I will discuss with my design team which animal we want to use as the icon for each season. “
Thom Browne holding his dachshund, Hector (@hectorbrowne) photographed in Chelsea, New York.
© AARON VASQUEZ.
Winter 2020 / 21’s unification of womens and mens into a single show, held in Paris just days before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, proved both his most animal-populated and prescient yet. Models wearing fetching animal masks by Stephen Jones walked two-by-two, a reference both to the degendering of Browne’s presentation and of course Noah’s Ark. As we all sought refuge in the months afterwards Browne released his “Animal Icons” collection of unisex handbags crafted in pebble grain leather to resemble a whole ecosystem of animal life, from frogs to elephants. “It’s never something we’ve done for commercial reasons,” says Browne: “it’s always been to add humor, fantasy and fun.” The first-ever Hector bag, he added: “was initially something we made almost as a joke. But we’ve since sold more Hector bags than we have some other types of bag. And in a way that’s an example of where I think all good design comes from – it starts in a pure and authentic place. And that’s where the animals come in. There’s a real purity to them, and I love them. “
Opening picture: the Rabbit bag from the Animal Icons series including lions, giraffes, elephants, hippos, dogs.