The high theater that is at the heart of every Thom Browne show did not disappoint this menswear season. The designer took the fashion world to Japan with a collection that was reverential, refined, and just a tad creepy.
In a hanger on the outskirts of Paris, Browne recreated a traditional minka house in the center of rice paddy fields. Trussed up among them like scarecrows mounted to ward off the cranes flying overhead were the show’s models dressed in impressively elaborate kimonos. Each one was a unique kessaku that paid deferential homage to the traditional garment.
The buzzing chatter of the usually reserved Japanese guest, who – just like the rest of the audience – was allowed to wander around the set to get a closer look at each impressive kimono design, was testament to the fact that Browne had hit a cord with his work.
When the show finally got underway, a group of four men dressed like geishas with exaggerated black lacquered wigs (think Princess Amidala) slowly and meticulously freed each model from his perch and his kimono. Underneath was a selection of shrunken suits in shades of grey. Then each white-faced model, with his slicked back hair and “three blind mice” mirrored sunglasses, walked slowly around the set on wooden geta sandals.
Browne used as an emotional trigger music by composer Ennio Morricone and performed by Yo-Yo Ma from films like “The Mission,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” to put the audience in a deeply reflective mood. This was so that when the models ambled by in their slow, very very slow Frankenstein-esque gait, the impressive workmanship on each outfit had plenty of time to be admired.
And admired they should be.
The craftsmanship laid bare on every Japanese inspired suit, from the one with a crouching tiger on the front or a snowy mountain peak cresting across a waistline to a three piece offering that had the wings of a crane stitched into one side of the jacket and continued onto the vest only to finish its reach on the other side, was exquisite.
If there is one caveat that can be made about this impressive collection, it was the speed at which this fashion art piece took place. Its glacial pace had a few audience members fidgeting in their seats about two-thirds of the way though.
Browne should remember what another great showman, P. T. Barnum, said about putting on a show: “always leave them wanting more.”