NEW YORK -- During a break in the Fashion Week runway action here, we had a chance to get an up-close look at the spring and summer 2014 Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers men's and women's collections. Like Brooks' regular collection for next spring, the Thom Browne-designed collection is full of details -- some subtle and some decidedly not -- that can only be truly appreciated up close.
The inspiration: Although no explicit inspiration was given (when it comes to sharing what inspires him, Browne is a gray-suited riddle wrapped around a short-pantsed enigma), according to the collection notes, the designer's focus for spring 2014 was "fabrics with interesting textures such as seersucker, silk shantung, embroideries and textured woven tulle."
The look: Grounded in a color palette of white, black, gray with pops of red and coral, the collection blended familiar preppy/nautical (prepnautical?) motifs like rope and braided details and gold blazer buttons with new ones like a nautical flag print based on a vintage scarf from the archives (it's the print that appears on the shorts at the far left of the above photo).
Men's pieces included seersucker jackets, Bermuda shorts, wool suits and a textured gray silk jacquard sport coat with tipping. Particularly eye-catching was a "Fun jacket" that combined a range of wool, linen and cashmere fabrics in a cacophony of ginghams, stripes and checks (a second version, in wool, mixes checks and stripes in red, white and blue).
The women's styles include a new dress silhouette with a sleeveless pleated bodice and an A-line skirt, a short-sleeve seersucker dress with pleating detail at the waist, a short-sleeve dress and matching kimono coat in a gray silk jacquard.
Key pieces: Our favorite pieces -- on both the men's and women's side -- were the ones that layered various nearly diaphanous fabrics over seersucker to create patterns that change ever-so-subtly as the garments move. On the women's side that included a dress, jacket and wrap skirt that layered a sheer gray-and-white-striped silk over gray and white seersucker and floral tulle layered over seersucker. On the men's side the standout piece was a seersucker jacket with an overlayer of black and white paisley-patterned lace.
The verdict: We've always said that Black Fleece brought out the best in both Brooks Brothers and Browne, and the spring and summer 2014 men's and women's collection gives us absolutely no reason to change our minds.