Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
PARIS--Having followed Thom Browne’s career since the beginning, I must admit I was a little fearful last July when for the spring season he showed one silhouette: Tightly fitted jackets and long short pants in endless permutations of fabrics. It would have been sad for men’s fashion if Mr. Brown had permanently abandoned his sense of humor, theatrics, creativity--and I would gather also his freedom--since he recently partnered with Cross Company, a Japanese apparel firm.
But this is not the case.
The courageous spacemen seemed to have landed back on earth, but in a different place--some faulty wormhole connected to a different era, perhaps. Maybe somewhere around the Parisian countryside in the Court of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Imagine the ornately decorated Salle Impériale transformed into a long dinner table where the models have transformed into distinguished guests, enjoying a quiet state dinner of green beans and corns. Impeccably dressed--a greenish plaid floor length high collar train coat, red plaid cardigan, flared pants tucked into black leather riding boots, brown top hat; spotted mink fur coat with silk puff sleeves, long cardigan, wool cap, elbow leather gloves--they each move their forks and knives in a mechanical and slow manner simulating the act of eating. After the waiters wearing grey jackets and aprons brought out the turkey, each guest stood up and walked around the table.
It was easy to see how much work Mr. Browne has put into the show. I’m not referring to the ostentatious Versailles-style dinner party, but instead the new silhouettes. There is a four-button double-breasted jacket with a high button stance--flared into A-line shape when closed only at the top--a black wool high collar riding jacket and black wool jodhpurs, a broad shoulder knee length coat in black wool cut slim at the waist, and a grey checkered coat with a train in the front and tails buttoned in the back to reveal the lining.
Since he started making suits in 2001, Mr. Browne has pushed the boundary of men’s fashion first by altering the basic proportion of structure and fit--his extra small-looking suits--then by toying with the nature of defined gender garments, often mixing the elements considered basic to womenswear--like ball-gowns and tulle--into his clothes. In a sense, his shows make us realize how limited we are in our thinking about fashion. Even if he hasn’t liberated men from these limitations, he has managed an on-going discourse.
Despite the theatrics of his fashion shows, don’t doubt for a minute that Mr. Browne is dedicated to the business of selling clothes. Witness the small crowd of Japanese men all dressed in small grey suits, white cardigans, white shirts, ties and black leather shoes who stood around with a tag Staff hanging around their chest to welcome guests at the show. These are the same clothes that fill store racks.
**Photos by Imaxtree.