Thom Browne has a fetish for masculine uniforms and rituals, so when the invitation for his spring 2014 men’s collection revealed the show’s venue, the sprawling Ecole Militaire, close to the Eiffel Tower, you already knew what he was up to.
An obsessive metteur-en-scène, Browne offered one of the campiest takes on military tradition ever. It almost watched like a short movie, with a kooky opening (Ziggy Stardust types standing guard in red, blue and white overalls with an outsize feather in their caps), a sense of intrigue on the classical soundtrack, and a rather triumphant denouement, as a dark military groom holding a white piece of fabric was followed by two colleagues holding his train. They hoisted a white flag to the solemn notes of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, quickly followed by The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.
Throughout the farcical, cinematic outdoor performance, the models wore reflective sunglasses and pranced in military coats and jackets, in Browne’s signature, gray, blue, white and red hues. Tulle jutted out of shorts, shoulder marks were three-dimensional, the backs of the jackets were laced up, the shoes sported stacked heels, and embroidered anchors were a reccurring motif. The craftsmanship was solid and it’s great to see an independent, free-spirited mind at work.
And yet the collection would have been stronger had Browne thrown in a smattering of more realistic pieces. He is most persuasive when he doesn’t mine too historical references, and when he takes inspiration from modern life, as he did with his superb Punks and Jocks collection last year.