Thursday, January 26, 2012

BEAUTY: Clothing-- Thom Browne

January is a very busy time for clothing. Pitti Uomo happens in Florence, followed immediately by Milano Moda Uomo. And hot on the heels of the Milan shows is Paris Fashion Week.

Paris Fashion Week in January always shows collections for the next Fall-Winter season, in this case for 2012 and 2013.

There are lots of shows and designers to catch up on so let's get to it.

Regular readers know that I do not follow "fashion" as in "What does Calvin Klein's sportswear look like this season?" I follow fashion the way some people delve into the art world. I think of "fashion" as "costume"--as a way to convey an idea or a concept. I appreciate what some designers do the same way one appreciates what an avant garde sculptor or painter or performance artist does. And in a way, these designers are performance artists. For me, it is not about what is hanging on racks in stores, but what these artists are creating and the ideas and concepts they are working with as an influence on their marvelous creativity. It is moving sculpture. It is theater. Fashion and clothing at this level serves as a kind of visual shorthand. A piece of clothing in the hands of a designer can evoke a place, a region, a country, a specific time or an entire era, a work of art such as a novel or film or painting, a class of people, even a social, financial, or spiritual element... and the combination of such pieces of clothing, as well as their harmony or contrast, can tell a fascinating story.

So with that in mind, let's look at what was possibly the strangest, most fascinating collection in Paris, maybe not only this month, but in recent memory!

Thom Browne, who seems so clean-cut and mild mannered on the surface with his high and tight haircut and stark suit, seems to be taking the lead for the designer who can create the most outlandish presentations (of course he has stiff competition from Walter van Bierendonck and Comme des Garçons).

This collection took its inspiration from the idea of punks vs. jocks in an average American high school. But since this is Thom Browne, he threw in the ambiance of the films "Road Warrior," "Rocky Horror," "Blade Runner," "The Longest Yard," "Despicable Me," and "The Incredibles." Incredible indeed. The result was a frightening face-off between these two tribes. Punks were outfitted in skinny cuts, cropped tops and jackets, hoods, spikes and studs (with the incongruity of merkins--pubic wigs--peeking up over the low waists of trousers and skirts), while the jocks were blown up to improbable, grotesque proportions. This hulking football player character with padded shoulders, elbows, knees, and ass morphed into a bizarre Frankenstein-like creature, stomping down the runway in a long, gray wool skirt. Browne also took staple aspects of a traditionally Preppy look such as pastel colors (pink and green) and the tiny little embroidered ducks, anchors, tennis rackets and such that one sees on those ridiculous, horrid Brooks Brothers trousers (it should be noted that Thom Browne actually designs Black Fleece, a sub-brand for Brooks Brothers!) and turned them from an ugly cliché into a post-modern feature. Huge embroidered ducks, safety pins, and terriers adorned jackets, trousers, and vests. And a cream suit with a pink and green Fair Isle print actually had its pattern rendered in studs!

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