This is Thom Browne’s moment. The coat he designed for Michelle Obama to wear to the inauguration (it’s check print inspired by a man’s tie- no less!) has transformed him from a cult fashion figure known only to those lucky enough to experience his unforgettable presentations, or the runway shows he designs for the Moncler Gamme Bleu line, into a household name across America. But more importantly, the coat underlined the fact that this designer, who is primarily known for menswear, also gets women. So it came as no surprise that his first post “MObama moment” womenwear show was the hot ticket at New York Fashion Week.
Upon stepping out of the freight elevator that carried guests up to the designer’s show venue, the audience was transported to a barren winter wonderland where male models, their hands and feet tied with red ribbons and their heads crowned with wreath of thorns, lay prostrate in their Thom Browne garb across white metal hospital beds. A slightly disturbing, but never the less not unexpected, set-up from a designer who prides himself on creating evocative mise en scène.
And for this, Browne’s first womenswear runway show (up until now there had only been presentations), the designer took his own sweet time. Sending out his white faced models, with their baby doll red lips and cotton candy beehive hairdos, at a languid pace. They walked the meandering catwalk in Donegal high heel lace up boots covered in what looked like melted candle wax and their legs adored with opaque white stockings embellished with vines of blooming 3D red roses shimmering with sequined dew drops.
As for the clothes, well the designer took a page out of his recent menswear collection playbook and focused on linebacker like shoulders. They created a sculptural volume and stiffness to the outfits and became the leitmotif silhouette of the show. The collection was dominated by classic menswear fabrics such as Prince of Wales tweeds, gabardine and houndstooth. But Browne softened the textiles by adding highly feminine embellishments such as appliqué lace and what looked to be laser cut fabric leafs the sprouted out of a fur coat or covered the bodice of an exaggerated hourglass shaped dress.
When the show, which started in a palette of black, white and gray, finally bloomed into a blood red the designer was really on a roll. In particularly when he created a print that blended a man’s checked fabric with whorls of oversized roses. Yes, the collection was theatrical and had proportions that wouldn’t work in the real world, but you can count on Browne to distill out these designs into more commercial incarnations (remember Obama) that will have him coming out of this collection smelling like a rose.
- Jessica Michault