Sunday, January 19, 2014

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT; ALICE IN WONDERLAND; THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS: all stories which take place in an enchanted, animal-filled, bucolic England... an idea that spoke to Thom Browne for his '14-'15 Fall-Winter collection.

Browne is an absolutely fascinating designer, and a man of seeming contradictions. His mild manner and always dapper appearance in grey flannel suits of his own styling do not betray the wild fireworks and pinball-like thoughts that must explode and careen in his imagination. His collections are always provocative and unexpected, but like Rick Owens, he works within a blueprint, a paradigm. Like modern multidisciplinary artist Matthew Barney's "Drawing Restraint" series in which he deliberately restricts his ability to move before starting to create a work of art that requires complete and total freedom of movement, Browne comes up with the most unusual inspirations, but restricts himself to the vernacular of the suit, and to the grey, black, white, or navy color palette of traditional men's wear. It seems like a fun exercise to see what one can accomplish with such limitations. And Browne must have a ball because he clears the self-imposed hurdles by leaps and bounds. This animal-themed fantasia--so simple yet so effective--is both ferocious with its elephant and bear headpieces created by celebrated milliner Stephen Jones OBE, with the tattered and frayed exposed seaming, and dressed down with exquisite tailoring in elements like classic double breasted suits. Who needs color with this much texture, pattern, and silhouette? It is spectacularly imaginative. In fact, the runway scene was a fabric woodland idyll complete with lazing animals that took three months to sew! And we see a little bit of the feminizing aspect that Browne has been working into his men's collections with what appear to be a few skirts... but all in all, the silhouette was surprisingly straight-forward and classic.

But never one to disappoint, he broke out in the second half of the collection with his own wild, implausible version of puffy, ballooned, camouflaged hunting gear: large florals and autumn leaves of varying scales are unified with a color scheme of cool grey, black, and white. The same "camouflage" pattern was painted onto the faces of the models as if they were on their way to the forest to hunt. What started out as man melding with nature ends up being man against nature. Run, Peter! But the show's finale, according to Tim Blanks at, had a surprise ending. "A more poignant subtext was the one suggested by the finale, where the 'hunter' models stood in front of the 'hunted' models, obscuring them. Then the 'hunted' models moved up front. 'The animals prevail,' said Browne." And I say good for them!

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