When the male models dressed up as altar boys slowly appeared at Thom Browne's show, elaborately set up like a church, the first thought that burst to mind was that hunky Roman Priest calendar (which, despite it being a calendar, showed no non-facial skin — what's the point?). But no, this was a women's collection and the grown-up altar boys, who knelt before the runway in worship of fashion, were there only as supporting eye candy.
Browne was clearly in a somber, ecclesiastical mood for fall. Opulently so. How else to explain the few dozen pews shipped in for the show? Perhaps this was his way of paying tribute to Pope Francis, who — to many people — is a papal rock star. Pontiff chic or not, heavy and priestly brocades dominated, many superimposed with Browne's familiar leaf motif, while strains from Fellini's Roma, a film that features its own fashion show of over-the-top Catholic extrapolations, filled the air — as did whiffs of incense. This was the church of Thom Browne.
Still, Browne stayed true to his trademark curvilinear cocoon shapes and exaggerated hourglass silhouette, with its fishtail and scallops for sleeves. But this obsession with volume seemed much more restrained, allowing for experiments in straight lines, right angles, and a new sparseness. For Browne, a maximalist who just last month stuck giant animal heads on his models, a pencil skirt worn with a cream-colored half-capelet is altogether minimal. These are pieces women will want to wear.
From those gray flannels and silvery pieces, Browne plunged headfirst into gold. Perhaps alluding to the vast, untold riches of the Vatican, Browne delivered about a dozen head-to-toe gilded looks, incorporating gold thread, metallic leather, and incredible gold bracelets engulfing the wrist. The last look was the final surprise: a loosely draped gold dress so un-nunnish as to practically be Pre-Raphaelite.