As Thom Browne’s dark-lipsticked models walked down his Paris runway with the speed of a vacationing snail — in bodysuits astonishingly pieced together with more a thousand buttons, then in flat panels of those same suits held together by around 800 buttons, then in their more normal versions with just 600 buttons — one was left with plenty of time to ponder this ending to fashion week, and menswear in general.
Sportswear is clearly dominating the runways right now. And the vision of a male model with a vacant, cooler-than-thou look, his face framed by a hoodie and his hands ensconced in track pants, has the shock value of a weather forecast on the French Riviera during summer.
This generation doesn’t wear suits the way their parents did, especially since many a fortune has been made by T-shirt-sporting hipsters. Faced with this reality, the fashion industry has recently been groping for ways to breathe new life into a garment that hasn’t truly been revived since Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, and, in a more conceptual way, by Browne himself.
Last year, Brioni famously hired and quickly dismissed the socially popular buyer Justin O’Shea; Haider Ackermann now holds the reins at Berluti; and this season Martine Rose, Balenciaga, and Walter Van Beirendonck made convincing cases for the survival of the suit. Browne’s thought-provoking show, almost anachronistic in an era of non-stop Instagramming, will require one of the casualties of the digital age: concentration.
Since the suits were all the same shade of gray, one might think that the designer was sending out the same outfit over and over. Actually, the three series of suits and coats were the same suits, differently realized. You ended up with three versions of 15 outfits: the sketch, the pattern, and the finished product. The wonder of it all is that these were essentially overalls, requiring extreme patience to put on and off, all the more with corseted waists. But wearability was beside the point.