Thom Browne: From bubble wrap to hyper-feminine deconstructed menswear
Leave it to Thom Browne to stretch the definition of menswear and the limits of our imagination in a mightily deconstructed collection, which brightened up a dank and nervous Saturday in Paris.
With Gilets Jaunes gathering nearby for yet another day of angry protest, a small squad of fashionistas managed to make it through the scores of closed-off avenues and streets to catch the Thom Browne show inside the Beaux Arts college.
A bunch of models in bubble wrap dresses, tautly cut Mary Quant style, with mittens and pharaoh headgear, opened the proceedings. Marching past a score of poles topped by more bubble wrap. At the show’s finale they uncovered these to reveal a series of finely made couture dolls, the mannequins on which the collection was based.
In effect, Browne took a womenswear approach to menswear this season, incorporating corsets into classic tailoring; adding trompe-l’oeil and including elements of couture draping. Or as he put it post show: “deconstructing to reappropriate the actual pieces into dresses.”
Browne made miniatures of this whole menswear collection, something he has done in womenswear but never for men’s fashion. Those were the actual dolls on the catwalk.
The result was a remarkable show where the opening look featured a combo of gray flannel blazer, men’s white shirt, inverted trousers and a blue highwayman’s coat all made into a great evening gown. For men.
He wowed with a coat dress in a Loch Ness blue, cut into panels where public school boy collar and tie were trompe-l’oeil. He intersected, jumbled up and draped mélanges of checks, pinstripes, worsteds and jersey into truly unexpected ideas. All trimmed with his signature red, white and blue grosgrain, all containing the posh and arty Browne DNA.
In a word, this was all about taking very masculine classic pieces from a man’s wardrobe, and turning them into evening gowns. Truly path-breaking fashion albeit made in very classic fabrics – English hunting wool, Harris tweeds, Shetland wools and military cashmeres.
“I wanted this very feminine women’s approach to the collection. In the end, the shapes of the jacket and trompe-l’oeil just looked very good. I love the idea of guys wearing the dress. Guys are open to so much more today,” argued Browne post show.
Adding with a chuckle: “We use bubble wrap for shipping back and forth our collection. So I was making a logistical fabric into clothes. Everything on the runway is for sale!”
“I am planning something else with the dolls. Cannot say what. I wanted to take classic versions, then do trompe-l’oeil, then drape, then do deconstruction. Good, better and best,” said Browne, who must now be considered the most technically gifted American designer to have emerged this century.
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