Thom Browne Ready To Wear Spring Summer 2014 New York

It was the hospital ward from Hell – or Silent Hill –,  as bandaged mannequins were chained up to the ceiling; lights were flickering in and out of existence, large jars of pills and their disposable plastic cups. And then there was that maddening, ice cream trunk-like music, tinkling away as guests wandered along padded walls.

As guests waited with bated breath for something, anything to happen (even perhaps a knife-wielding maniac), the gradual tittering of nervous laughter started, right before it happened. Mad nurses, wearing round sunglasses and in heavily embellished uniforms began the proceedings. Ever the consummate showman, Thom Browne immersed his guests to better throw off their perceptions.

 “Girls are fun” read words embroidered across the bodice of one of the hospital’s beautiful corpse brides. From the looks of things, that fun is probably the kind that ends up in a horror movie. But beyond the shock appeal of the deathly white faces bisected with a slash of red lipstick and Helena Bonham-Carter mad eyes, the show was worth the wait.

The inmates themselves had that mad Victorian tinge to them: nipped-in waists and voluminous sleeves, hips marked out. Latex ran throughout, serving as an embellished membrane atop brocade dresses. Since Browne debuted his womenswear, he’s added a further layer to the “through the looking glass” feel of his shows.

Shades of white gave way to white and blue, accented only by the crimson lips and matching pearled hairnets – recreating his red, white and blue signature? His sharp tailoring skills, already put to good use for men, here comes across in the utter perfection of a sculpted shoulder with an open back (covered by a layer of latex), or in the impeccable volumes of a silhouette-emphasizing skirt. The layering of elements is equally precise, equally deliberate. While this all may have been a bit much to the eye, it felt thrilling in a way that few have been so far this season.

Of course, dresses with cones tipped in lash-like spikes aren’t sellable as is, but anyone with an eye for it can see that it all has retail potential in spades, once the show element is removed. Ever since First Lady and premier clotheshorse of the US, Michelle Obama attended her husband’s second-term inauguration in a coat designed by Browne, all eyes have been on him to produce something spectacular. He did, but not in a commercial sense. Rather, he’s spun out the world of utter fantasy and madness that is deeply rooted in his creative world, and in the rather commercial New York setting, it stuns and whets critical appetites. What’s up next? Terrifyingly terrific tales to be told.

- Lily Templeton

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