New York Fashion Week 2015: Fearless fashion flyers Thom Browne and Rosie Assoulin

New York Fashion Week 2015: Fearless fashion flyers Thom Browne and Rosie Assoulin
Thom Browne's mourning-wear-as-high-fashion look. (Diane Bondareff / Associated Press)

On the streets outside the shows, fearless fashion flyers are a dime a dozen. There's the blogger wearing shorts and storm-flap boots on a subzero day, the one with his hair sculpted into something approximating Mickey Mouse ears, and the one in a Muppet-like shag of yellow faux fur. You get the point.

But on the runways, fearlessness is in short supply, save for a few creative renegades, one of whom is Thom Browne.


Browne has managed to become well known for keeping avant-garde fashion alive in New York, as well as for designing the dress that First Lady Michelle Obama wore to the second Inauguration. He didn't disappoint with his fall collection.

There was an operating theater for a set. Doctors in white lab coats worried over patients on stretchers. A dramatic snowfall occurred, then a "death" and an ascension. And that was all before the heart-stoppingingly beautiful parade of all-black mourning-attire-as-fashion even began.

The exercise in restraint put a microscope on Browne's surgical cuts, lavish textiles and embroideries, and distilled his creativity into something truly wearable.

Out were the crinolines, pumped-up volumes and historical costumes. In their place, Browne showed classic shapes, including raglan jackets, sack coats, capes, cardigans, wrap trousers and zip-front dresses. Still, the clothes were radical in that they were so richly worked with couture-quality, 3-D effects: raffia seams, mink "cable knit" intarsia, rubber yarn, feather and bugle bead trim and corded embroidery. It was mind-boggling.

Throughout, there seemed to be references to Victorian mourning jewelry -- not whale bone scrimshaw but a whale intarsia on a dress and a wacky whale-shaped handbag. And not hair jewelry to remember the departed but horsehair edging on a jacket.

There was more salable suiting than ever before, carried over from Browne's genre-changing menswear in silk-satin rugby-like stripes or with "TB tartan" embroidery, along with crisp shirts and chic lace neckties.

Despite the dark subject matter and the dramatic veils and headgear, the clothes didn't feel maudlin. After all, you can never go wrong with basic black. ‎And anyone lucky enough to own a piece of this collection will certainly have an exquisite future heirloom to pass down and be remembered by.

From a micro focus on black-on-black details to grander gestures, up-and-coming talent Rosie Assoulin showed a collection that was all about audaciously sculptural silhouettes.

Assoulin started her business in 2013 after working under veteran jeweler (and her future mother-in-law Roxie Assoulin) at Lee Angel, as well as at Lanvin and Oscar de la Renta.

She gained international attention in August 2014 for dressing Michelle Dockery in one of her whimsical-modernist designs for the Emmys. And Assoulin has been gaining buzz ever since.

Her fall collection was ‎an adventure in color and shape: black pants with exaggerated wide legs and a lavender print, off-the-shoulder top with a scarf tie at the side; a gray jumpsuit with a dramatic, outsize bow in back; a black-and-white maze print halter gown with a diamond-shaped bodice; and a playful, cantaloupe-colored, strapless top with sculptural peplum, worn over pants.

"We call that style a Tilt-a-Whirl," after the popular amusement park ride, the designer said of the top.‎ "In the studio, we always say, 'Let's just go for it and let it be great.'"

Assoulin is showing remarkable promise by creating interesting volumes in substantial fabrics that somehow seem to be weightless.‎ She's not afraid, and her childlike enthusiasm is contagious.