Thom Browne designed to his Paris moment. “When I thought of doing my first show here, I wanted to celebrate what, in my mind, Paris fashion is all about — the craftsmanship of couture,” he said during a preview.
Browne called his vision of couture “almost childlike,” one represented for spring in a single word: tulle. He thus devised a personal creative challenge: to taking the classic American fabrics he loves – madras, seersucker, checks – and re-create them in a collection made almost entirely of tulle. “Especially for the first show, I wanted a real celebration of the culture of fashion in Paris,” he said. “But then, to make sure that people saw the true connection to what I’ve been doing.”
What this man did with tulle was staggering. In paying homage to couture, he created couture — a collection that would have shown as brilliantly in July as it did on Tuesday at the Hotel de Ville. The mastery of these clothes was beyond, the fabric development remarkable. Imagine a trim madras jacket that looks like real thing, but woven with painstaking precision from strips of tulle. Or a cricket jacket, its half-“exploded,” half-shaved tulle configuration mocking the conservatism of the real thing. Or puffer pieces in which shredded tulle is trapped and quilted in a tulle shell.
More than enough for the makings of a spectacular collection, and Browne delivered on the promise. Yet one risks giving the clothes short shrift. As magical as they were, the story Browne spun around them was more so. He told the tale of twins, Jeanmarie and Marybeth, their bodies sorely imperfect, lumpy, bumpy, frumpy in a Lucien Freud sort of way (if his medium were quilted tulle). The two fall asleep and into a mutual dream that takes them to a different planet, a place where everyone is an individual and every individual is beautiful. The mermaid is beautiful, but so is the octopus lady, and the caterpillar girl. The cricket player is beautiful, and the preppy and the working woman and the skeletal girl and a rounder type. And the tuxedo lady and the cowgirl. And suddenly, the lumpy dumpy twins are beautiful, too, transformed, with the help of a unicorn (made by the same company that created War Horse), into heavenly bodies who now love themselves and fit right in. In fact, their bodies haven’t changed. But in this wonderful Planet of Dreams, there are no standards of beauty save one: Be who you are. All are welcomed.
“The fantasy is where it needs to start,” Browne said. Though he referred to his fantastical approach to his runway, but he could have been talking about the world his show depicted, one of acceptance and inclusion. Fantasy, alas, yes. But we can hope.