In the name of sustainability, Thom Browne forewent a fancy set, wrapping the venue — set within the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts — in bubble wrap, the seating included. Not to mention the procession of pharaoh-like figures who opened the show.
Browne, who also Saran-wrapped the models’ faces, was keen not to get too deep about it. “It was just for fun,” he demurred. “We use the bubble wrap for shipping collections back and forth, so it’s basically taking what we use for logistical reasons and making it into the set.”
A master of theater — this time outdoing himself in his ability to transport the audience into a parallel world — the master tailor, who has a thriving commercial business and a new owner, Ermenegildo Zegna Group, also likes to treat the runway as an exercise in style. Here he took his love of the Fifties-type structured formal suit and exploded it into dresses and a cross-dressing fantasia.
It played out in three sections, opening with feminized, corseted spins on the classic suit, using “beautifully feminine” traditional cloths like English hunting tweeds, Shetland wools, Harris tweeds and developed military cashmeres.
Looks included Mary Poppins-style coats incorporating women’s elements like fur cuffs on the sleeves, and cable knit cardigans transformed into straight long button front skirts, with the designer warping proportions, shrinking the body of a regular bomber jacket, say, to create a wasp-waist effect.
Next came the eye-trickery trompe l’oeil versions of suiting, shirts and ties. And then, just when you thought you’d seen it all, he took it to another dimension with a series of elaborate gowns crafted from a suit’s parts patchworked together and draped around the body, moving between real trompe l’oeils and real clothes sewn together. “It was almost like good, better, best,” concluded Browne of the evolution of his walking art installations.
“It’s interesting to see how men are dressing now and I think the real, feminine women’s wear approach is really interesting for guys nowadays,” he continued, adding that he loved the idea of “taking very masculine classic pieces and draping them on the body to make them very feminine,” like an evening dress. “Being sure to use every single piece of the looks that you saw in the front,” emphasized Browne. “Very sustainable, very conscious.”
The finale had the bubble wrap-topcoat wearing model unveiling a row of dolls dressed in exact replicas of the outfits that had just been seen on the runway. It underscored the couture level of the collection.