For his return to Paris, Thom Browne staged an Americana-inflected retelling of Cinderella, complete with a giant shoe and actresses Gwendoline Christie and Golden Globe-winning “Pose” star MJ Rodriguez as the lead characters.
It was “an American prom mixed with Cinderella, mixed with the Paris Opera,” as the designer put it. His set was nothing less than the grandiose foyer of the Opéra Garnier, where the romance of Charming and Cindy — Christie and Rodriguez, respectively — unfolded.
“The two of them together felt like today’s perfect version of Cinderella,” Browne said backstage, revealing that he’d been inspired to explore the classic fairytale because it was playing when he visited the Opéra Garnier as a venue option.
“He loves his little stories and this is going to be a very long story,” warned Christie, wrapped in an opulent velvet robe with golden embroideries climbing up the back and sleeves.
Browne being Browne, the tale veered toward an all-American romance, aka “Grease,” with the couple’s missed connection, respective posses and even a pink Cadillac, made of silk tulle and “worn” by Rodriguez as a final look, taking turns on the runway.
The story unfolded in four acts, starting with models appearing in billowing opera coats cut from paper taffeta edged with grosgrain ribbon, large jersey numbers on their backs. Ruffles and bows and all manners of maximalist volumes came through in pastels and jewel tones. Thick woolly socks and occasional flashes of giant polka dots on midi-length bottoms were a hint of the following chapter.
A handful of opera frocks followed — the fairy’s little helpers, no doubt — growing into wide party skirts made buoyant by a profusion of petticoats and topped with chunky varsity knits in ribbon crochet. Then came a smorgasbord of Browne’s faux-classic tailoring, all covered with giant polka dots, in a palette the designer described as “very childlike and almost not so pretty” that echoed the ’80s vibe floating around Paris.
Then punks appeared, wrapped in lengths of polka dot fabrics and cropped everything, their skin covered by ruched body suits in bright tones.
After a final skit that saw Christie and Rodriguez sashay down the runway toward their happily ever after, it was time for Rodriguez to change into a cropped white shirt and grey slacks hanging so low on the hips they left her “little boy briefs” well in view before taking a turn in that pink Cadillac.
“In Thom Browne’s world, all boys, all girls, everyone fits in the shoe,” Christie concluded.
A heartwarming stance to finish a feel-good show, although it made for a runway a little too crowded to properly unpack.