Turning Japanese: Thom Browne Spring 2016

Thom Browne’s set designs are getting more and more elaborate all the time, not to mention cheeky. For spring, he constructed a one-room schoolhouse — its wood frame outline only — and stocked it full of children’s desks. But everything outside that room was upside down: a white picket fence, a bike, shrubs, grass (in grayscale only, his prefered palette). His models’ pigtails, too, shot straight up in the air. Or was up really down? This is the topsy-turvy world Browne now occupies, carving out an avant-niche for himself long ago in New York’s otherwise highly commercial landscape.

However, this wasn’t a prairie schoolhouse in the American Midwest somewhere, as one might assume, but one located in the Japan of his imagination, a place and theme he’s mined before. As with Browne’s men’s collection, his schoolgirls wore highly decorated, artfully wrought versions of school uniforms — permutations of the blazer and pleated-skirt combo, a look so thoroughly adopted by the Japanese. Models inched along the runway (as is necessary with a small collection), before stepping into the schoolhouse and proceeded to do the things children do: giggling, passing notes, and so on. Yet their school outfits were like no other, embellished with intricate scenes of pastoral Japan: swimming koi fish, flying cranes, strolling geishas, and lots of Mount Fuji. It was beyond lavish, almost beyond concept. Shoes, meanwhile, had elevated soles resembling Geta sandals, but were worn with bobby socks, thus kicking the theme back to Americana. The flat straw hats, too, gave the impression of a county fair. Clearly Browne is having fun with cultural touchstones.



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