Sunday, January 25, 2015

BEAUTY: Clothing--Thom Browne

For his Fall-Winter '15-'16 collection for his own label, Thom Browne showed us the death of a man named Michael, all in white and alone in a white room...which he turned completely black for his demise and the funeral that immediately followed. Of this fictitious character created for the show, Browne commented, "He just was very singular and he was a very independent person, who...he didn't realize that everybody recognized who has was because he was so comfortable being on his own." Mourners came to pay respects to the recently departed wearing traditional black for mourning. But not just black...they wore black. I mean BLACK. Inky black, impenetrable black, light-sucking black, Manet black. The collection was BLACK.

We know from past collections that Browne is a highly cerebral designer. Like Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçon, Browne's mind is a labyrinthine place with concepts and ideas coming from darkness into light, colliding, and creating unlikely and surprising inspirations (1920s Flappers for men, and Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch quilts as coats). And for this exact reason, this collection, while on the surface resembling Edward Gorey, "Dark Shadows," The Addams Family, and possibly a few Hammer Horror films, is actually a reverential meditation on death, loss, and grief, and the traditional ritual that death entails. The slow, stately pace of each model stopped only to face the "body in repose" for a moment of respect while a steady fall of black ash fell like snow from above. An ominous bass drum kept time. The pale-faced mourners wore top or cloche hats with veils of wide netting or tight tulle. Browne's "short suits" were present but so were Edwardian breeches, and Browne's now standard skirts, wraps, and aprons. It all gave the impression of a widow or a dowager in a Tim Burton film.

But there were some light touches like the jacquards that featured the little whales and tortoises Browne has used in the past for his SS '13 collection. There was even a satchel/backpack in the shape of a tortoise--in black, naturally. Another woven fabric featured a tight layer of argyle and geometrics reminiscent of not only his solo work but some of the argyle collections he has created for Moncler Gamme Bleu. But the palette saw a tiny bit of relief with a few midnight blue jackets and overcoats.

Despite his theatricality, Browne really does manage to make collections that are wearable. Isolate any one of these pieces and you can see it stands on its own.

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