Monday, June 29, 2015

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

For his Spring Summer '16 show, Thom Browne sent his usual grey flannel suits to Japan for a vacation.

Let's face it: his menswear is ultimately subversive. He has been feminizing traditional tailoring and menswear ever since he put a model in a fur stole for his first collection in 2006. Browne has augmented the staple of men's suits with what is generally thought of as "feminine" accessories, shapes, or cuts such as skirts and aprons. His '14 Spring Summer show used a military theme but he ballooned out uniform coats and jackets to feminine "A-line" shapes with models in bright red lipstick, seen here. He even put models in versions of fringed Flapper dresses, long strands of pearls, and cloche hats for his '12 SS collection, here.

While elevating and paying homage to the "male" silhouette, he has, at the same time, tried to pry it apart, loosen it up, to loosen its fear-based death grip on the trappings it uses to prop itself up. There really is no such thing as anything essentially "masculine." Masculinity defines itself not by any inherent qualities but by being the opposite of "feminine." Masculinity is a construct. By contrast, the feminine simply is. Masculinity looks at all things perceived as feminine and says, "I am whatever you are not." As I have said many times on "Oh, By The Way," this is where misogyny and homophobia come from.

The bulk of this SS '16 show was composed of straight-ahead suits but the jackets and pants featured a boxy cut that invokes the roomy cuts of Japanese clothing like the haori, or traditional kimono jacket, and hakama, a type of very loose trouser. The appliquéd embellishments (created by craftsmen in Japan), albeit in blacks, blues, and greys, are rich and varied showing pretty much every iconic Japanese symbol Browne could think of: cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji, pastoral scenes, bamboo, cranes, tigers, dragons, chrysanthemums, koi fish, and fans. Models naturally sported pale faces, but the black lips and intimidating round sunglasses were all Browne (and in fact, there was a spooky somberness to the show that was reminiscent of last season's funereal parade, seen here). And of course the footwear of choice was the geta, the traditional Japanese wooden sandal, but with the blue, white, and red Thom Browne stripe on the top.

The subversion came in the last several looks when models came out in full-on geisha outfits, all silvers and greys, made up of a kimono, obi (the sash that goes around the waist) and Stephen Jones headpieces--a wig with kanzashi, geisha hair ornaments with small mums and wisteria. But before we extrapolate that Browne was putting men in women's clothing as a modern day gender statement, let's remember that the Kabuki and Noh theaters of Japan traditionally used men in all stage roles, including those of women, much like Elizabethan England...

The show itself, like all Browne's shows, was a sumptuous theatrical affair. A tea house stood in the center of the space while his models assumed the positions of scarecrows in kimonos all around the rice fields. Geishas came from the teahouse to "free" each scarecrow from his kimono and bamboo frame to walk the space...

All show photos above by Corinne Jeammet

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