Headless plaster bodies hanging from the ceiling; various limbsscattered about elsewhere. Raw, flickering light bulbs. Björk’srelentless shushing. Intensely corseted, rubberized models with smudgedlipstick and red snoods not controlling theirwet-finger-in-the-light-socket coiffeurs. What, pray tell, was this allabout? “The whole idea of the [Elizabethan] clown and how there’ssomething very interesting and sinister about the clown,” Thom Browneoffered in nonexplanatory explanation postshow.

The extravaganza was extremely interesting and, in its own weird,weird, weird way, often beautiful. It confounded, opening a trove ofquestions about who Thom Browne is as a designer (of women’s clothes, atleast) and what Thom Browne is as a fashion brand. Here was afantastical, dark tale spun via exquisitely conceived and craftedcostumery, with elements that could be read as Elizabethan, or asvarious other long-ago-and-far-away genres, depending upon one’s ownimaginative preferences. They definitely read as derivative of AlexanderMcQueen (and, less so, of John Galliano in the ankle-sock-stilettotouch and Rei Kawakubo in the fabric mastery) — which is fine. Like allother designers great and not-so, Browne must be allowed his references,but for goodness sake, they all got there first, invariably (when attheir best) with powerful statements behind the glorious madness.Essential to appropriation is taking ownership via forward motion. Someof Browne’s shapes recalled McQueen’s Chess Game masterpiece. What wasthe backstory here?

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