A teahouse sat in the middle of a field, surrounded by scarecrows in kimonos. Every so often, the shadows of hawks chasing sparrows raced across the ground. Then the sliding screens of the teahouse opened and four geishas emerged, spectral, monochrome, crowned by Stephen Jones' swooping, sculptural headgear. At a glacial pace, the geishas moved around the room, releasing the scarecrows from their kimonos, revealing ensembles of surpassing complexity. We were once more traveling in Thom Browne country. With his partner, Andrew Bolton, caught up in his curatorial duties for the Costume Institute's China exhibition, Mr Browne's thoughts also turned East, but to Japan, a country that is dear to him. Its attention to detail, its respect for the artisan, and its passion for craft reflect his own ethos so closely that he felt this collection was one of his most personal. And he finally took the long-overdue step of itemizing his outfits on a handout, like so : "patch pocket sack suit and overcoat hand-pieced with plain weave wool, pinstripe, and wool chalkstripe fresco in Mount Fuji motif -Kimono in Mount Fuji chenille yarn jacquard ". While those few lines scarcely did justice to the extraordinary work that went into the kimonos (they will be stored in the archives for an exhibition some time in the future), they did at least point out that the tailored items were not embroidered or intarsia-ed. A collage of fabrics was pieced together by hand to form the image on each look. Thom Browne used his manufacturers in Japan to do the work, the only people in the entire world whom he felt were capable of realizing his obsessive vision. He said that each suit did in fact tell a story, but in the broadest way. Every folkloric motif you might associate with Japan -the samurai sweeping his staff, dragons, cranes, chrysanthemums, Mount Fuji, flying geese- was put together in tones of gray. In presentation, this soothing symphony bordered on the soporific, as the designer's models shuffled in their traditional geta sandals and tabi socks toward their date with destiny in the teahouse. It's a smart move on Thom Browne's part to stage his shows at such a stately pace because it forces focus onto the craft of the clothing. And here there was more than enough craft to reward contemplation. The models, with their white skin, black lips, pomaded hair and tiny dark glasses, looked like a mad scientist's efforts to create a master race in an old black&white movie -or maybe distant relatives of David Bowie in 'The Hunger'. The designer seems to prefer these passive automatons as clothes hangers for his designs. While such a decision certainly emphasizes the otherworldly preciousness of his work, one could also look forward to seeing it in this world, living, breathing, and rippling with movement.