An original and deeply personal fashion experience wrapped up this round of men’s shows as Thom Browne made his much-anticipated Paris debut. The superb show was staged in the headquarters of the French communist party, a 70s’ Oscar Niemeyer building that reeks of the era’s idealistic futurism. It offered a perfect setting for Browne’s cinematic performance (very Kubrickian). Journalists were seated in a spherical conference room as if they were attending a UN summit, while photographers were in a different room. Each was provided a notebook, pencil and two flags—one American, the other French. As the spaceship-like doors closed, an ominous soundtrack heightened the tense atmosphere. Four men in suits took their seats in front of the audience. “Please hold all questions for the end,” they said.
Then, an army of astronauts with gold lipstick stormed in. They doffed their white uniforms in front of the photographers and came back wearing nifty three-button short suits in the abbreviated proportions that have made Browne a star. The same short suit came in endless variations: checked, in sequined tartan, with child-like appliquéd decoration, or with red, blue and white details suggesting French-American friendship. Gold sunglasses, knee-high socks and formal shoes accessorized the outfits. Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” on the sountrack added to the drama.
It was a potent message, one that distilled the essence of Browne’s vision: his fascination with order, conformity and bureaucracy (already expressed in a 2009 show held in a Nazi-era building in Florence), as well as his idiosyncratic humor and his belief that a man doesn’t need that many clothes, actually—just the right ones. In an interview last year, the designer declared that he likes the time John F. Kennedy lived because “There wasn’t as much choice in terms of stuff. Everything was just simpler.” In our era of disposable fashion, it is a great thing that such a singular voice can be heard.