Survival of the Fit: Thom Browne Men’s Spring 2017

Thom Browne’s show started with a voiceover: “Good evening, everyone. This is Thom Browne. Before we start, I thought it would be appropriate to observe a moment of silence for the incomparable Bill Cunningham.” In its obituary, the New York Times noted that the photographer, an outstandingly dedicated follower of fashion, resisted the trends of celebrity dressing.

Interestingly, Thom Browne has never hopped onto the celebrity bandwagon either, or chased Instagram royalty to adorn his front rows. He likes fashion in its purest form. He likes the fantasy of it, and fantasy is a word that one utters rarely these days while talking about fashion shows. Do they transport you anywhere so unexpected that they conjure up a fantasy? However, is fantasy totally anachronistic in fashion today? Well, Thom Browne proves that it’s not.

So this time, once again, we got to delve into his singular imagination. An obsessive metteur en scène, Browne had his guests enter the Paris Event Center (which is becoming for him what the Espace Commines was to Helmut Lang) so that they could see a lonely surfer in a gray suit-cum-wetsuit reclining against a black palm tree on an ashy beach.

When the suspenseful strains of the Jaws soundtrack started on the soundtrack, a model with a shark’s head and dorsal fin roamed the runway. Then a squad of models, their faces concealed behind bathing caps, gray make-up, and sunglasses, arrived wearing capacious black tuxedos that, again, morphed into wetsuits. Once removed, they revealed the show’s main courses, the most unexpected and dressiest variations on the wetsuit, zippered in the back.

The wetsuit theme allowed the designer to experiment with color and trompe l’oeil, for example a green mink jacket or white pants with a gigantic shark bite taken out. As usual, the craftsmanship was impressive, as some jackets were made of broderie anglaise, a green slicker had an astrakhan collar, and one tailcoat was made of satin duchesse with faille piping. Colorful brogues completed the looks. To add to the weirdness, models dressed as seagulls and parrots flapped their wings about the room, without ever taking flight.

The parade ended with a suspenseful strip tease, with models doffing their precious raiment to reveal one-piece swimsuits. (How come swimwear has vanished from the runways?) They grabbed Thom Browne-branded surfboards while The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows blared on the soundtrack. The whole spectacle was hilarious, campy, entertaining, and at times undecipherable. And obviously, some of the clothes were difficult to imagine beyond the runway or the hands of stylists, but who cared? It was a fantasy, and it worked.

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