Who needs the Winter Olympics when you can watch Lindsey Vonn tearing up the ski slopes in a Thom Browne tuxedo and gold lame puffer gown? Ah-mazing.
Browne cast the alpine racing queen as his star in one of the top fashion films of the season, a 10-minute jewel-box of a tale in black-and-white that conjured the intimacy of Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel” and the sentimentality of Victor Fleming’s “Wizard of Oz,” but was still pure Thom.
“When you do something you want to be really special, you always have the dream of working with someone who is the best at what they do. It’s like LeBron,” Browne said, referencing his collaboration on clothing with the basketball legend LeBron James. “When you think of a skier you think of Lindsey Vonn.”
The film spotlighting the Olympian, who in 2010 became the first American woman to win the gold in downhill skiing, follows Browne’s sport-themed spring outing, shot at L.A.’s Memorial Sports Coliseum, which hosted the Olympics twice.
“It started when I was in L.A. in September, I thought the play on the two collections would be the Summer and Winter Olympics, and [for winter] taking the idea of extreme sports videos, which I love, all the people jumping out of helicopters and skiing those insane slopes. The dream was to have Lindsey Vonn jumping out of a helicopter and skiing in one of my tuxedos. And here we have it!”
“I love that this project brought Thom and me together,” Vonn said via email. “He is meticulous in his work and couture craftsmanship and has produced a campaign video that highlights his creative mind and his message of hope and unity.”
Browne wrote and directed the story, which pays homage to Dorothy’s “no place like home” dream state, with filmmaker Carissa Gallo. (“She understands my weirdness and how I want to make things more charmingly old as opposed to new and hyper realistic,” he said.) The shoot happened over three days on Solitude Mountain outside of Park City, Utah. “We were all on skis..it was amazing to see the guys with the steady cams on skis and to see her ski in person,” said Browne of Vonn’s carving technique. “It was so much work but also so much fun. The spring film was a good learning experience. This one feels at a different level.”
Fusing couture tweeds and mohairs and technical ripstop fabrics, black tie formalwear and sportswear silhouettes, the men’s and women’s collection lived up to the film in drama. It was also a master class in execution, offering a multilayered window into classic dressmaking techniques like corsetry and pleating.
Gowns were sculptural constructions of half tuxedos, half corsets, while tailoring was intensely detailed with patchworks and intarsias of alpine scenes, or embroidered with snowflakes made from the brand’s Mr. and Mrs. Thom stick figure icons and tiny bugle beads like a fresh dusting. Intricate, irregular pleating on a draped black wool skirt unbuttoning from a white corset echoed a skier’s turns in powder. And a black minidress, worn over a pleated trouser skirt, was so densely beaded the designer said it weighed close to 100 pounds.
But not everything was heavy. Technical draw cords created buoyant shape in the sleeves and collars of white cotton pique tuxedo shirts, some with cool, over-the-hand cuff details, and the shirting for one, could be separated from Browne’s total looks and incorporated into almost anyone’s wardrobe.
Speaking of the commercial front, down-filled outerwear has been a big category for Browne, ever since he became one of the first Moncler collaborators in 2016, and that sporty influence could be felt in the voluminous nylon quilted skirt on a corset dress that was a marvel of construction, mixing knit, woven and nylon fabrics, and shaped by technical draw cords; as well as on a horizontally-quilted evening cape, puffer totes, shawls and more ready-to-wear pieces.
Another tuxedo corset gown, complete with embroidered mittens on the jacket-like bodice, and a super size white satin bow at the hip, also had nylon puffer volume to the skirt.
“It’s important to see beautiful clothing on a body, regardless if it’s a man or woman,” Browne said of the look. “I love showing men’s and women’s together but this is the first time I didn’t think of a man or a woman when I designed, I really just created the pieces. It’s an amazing time we live in that this conversation is happening.”
There was so much detail to be pored over, one hopes these clothes can be seen in person at some point, since they weren’t on a runway, perhaps as part of an exhibition at a store or museum.
That’s the one caveat of the digital format, Browne conceded. “I am going to go back to live shows, but I also really love doing film and the idea of doing a combination of both. It’s a luxury to have the time to edit where with a show, it’s 20 minutes and you better get it right.”
He’s so creative, it would be interesting to see a full length feature film from him one day. Move over Tom Ford, there’s another Thom ready to take Hollywood.