Make way, ladies and gentlemen: It’s 1772 and Thom Browne’s man is at his estate, dressed in a mile-wide pannier and cuffed trousers fit for an elephant’s legs. He’s imposing, but sophisticated – and highly original.
The designer famous for his fantastical visions of male dress and presentations right out of a Lewis Carroll novel managed to one-up himself this season. His show took in Marie Antoinette-style dress, the NFL, FC Barcelona, the NBA, the MLB and the American Ballet Theatre. Even for a designer like Browne, that’s quite an achievement.
James Whiteside, principal dancer at the ABT, flew in for the day to leap, twirl, and do a split, all while dressed in a trompe l’oeil tailored suit-cum-tutu. Browne’s models wore Bermuda shorts with built-in jock straps, or garden trellises abloom with fabric flowers over their candy-striped wool seersucker shorts suits. Fabrics were courtesy of Browne’s parent company, Ermenegildo Zegna.
This Marie Antoinette-takes-on-Tom Brady collection offered up curving seersucker coats enhanced with panniers, football-style padding, or corset lacing. Those pieces jostled for attention alongside bustles shaped like footballs, round bags like soccer balls, and broad, bouncing cage skirts.
More fantasy arrived in the shape of oversize quilted jackets with exaggerated raglan sleeves, or capes and coats adorned with starfish, seahorses or whales.
While the collection charmed, there were some critical bits of the late 18th century and early 21st century missing here: either a baroque fan for each of the guests, or some fierce aircon. The École des Beaux-Arts quickly turned into a hothouse in the afternoon sun, leaving guests roasting like veal in the Versailles ovens.
It’s too bad, as the heat distracted from Whiteside’s spectacular performance, and left some guests counting the minutes until the show was over.
Browne referred to his spring effort as “my Versailles country club,” and said he liked the idea of fusing two worlds — make that three, including the ballet — that ostensibly have nothing to do with one other.
“I’ve always used sports as a reference and professional athletes have been influential to me,” said the designer, who dresses the FC Barcelona team. He also enjoyed “playing off of the severity of the 18th century, and then grounding the collection in sports. It was a way to bring it into the men’s world.”
And, sticking with the sports theme, it was a home run all the way.