Thom Browne’s debut at Paris Couture Week was a theatrical, melancholic extravaganza, with some arch humor bubbling under the uniformly gray surface.
During a preview, he had mused about his signature flannel suits invading the hallowed high-fashion arena. No kidding: There were 2,000 cardboard cutouts of men in gray suits seated in the Opéra Garnier when the curtain went up. (The audience, including actress Diane Keaton and rapper Cardi B, were seated on the vast, sloping stage, dotted here and there with fake, gray pigeons.)
Browne’s shows are typically set pieces and he stretched this one out to 35 minutes: enough time for model Alek Wek to make herself comfortable on a stack of gray suitcases plunked in front of the camera pit; for theater guru Jordan Roth to flap his arms and pretend he was a pigeon in a tufted jacket, and for models to mince along in their bell-shaped coats and bell-shaped felt hats under a ghostly bell-shaped chandelier. The models also had little bells mounted on their heels, which added texture to the all-1980s, all-plaintive soundtrack of Björk, Communards, Japan and Bronski Beat songs.
“Fade to Grey,” the ’80s hit by Visage about depression, set the narrative for the show, with Wek the protagonist, “thinking about her life, not being so happy,” Browne explained after the show. “And then her whole fantasy of what she thought was so much more interesting passing her by. And then in reality, she realizes her life is fine.”
The designer was in an ebullient mood, having fulfilled a wish to join the exclusive couture club and having 20 client appointments booked for the day after the show.
“I wanted them to be pieces of clothing that people would invest in,” he said, describing how he applied extra intensive workmanship to his usual archetypes. He noted, for example, that one jacket and miniskirt were composed entirely of “crystal-clear crystal beads.…The color actually is the thread that is going through the beads.”
To be sure, the textures of his Chesterfield coats, Ivy League jackets, pleated skirts and seersucker suits were occasionally mesmerizing — here a straightforward dazzle of gold beading with Art Deco airs; there nubby tweeds embedded with tiny sequins and little clouds of wooly tufting.
The shapes were repetitive, which made you focus on the quirky details: the 3D starfish embellishments, and gold whale-tail embroideries poking out of pockets.
“She was drowning in her sorrows,” Browne explained. “So that was the reason for all the underwater themes, which are within the preppy East Coast iconography that I play with all the time.”
Browne’s dachshund-shaped Hector bags also made an appearance — bigger and more blinged out than usual.
The designer launched his label in 2003 with the intent of reintroducing tailoring to the early 2000s crowd living in jeans and T-shirts. He’s come a long way, indeed, to the biggest stage in Paris.
Backstage at Palais Garner in Paris
The Palais Garnier in Paris is a magnificent opera house and a significant landmark in the city. It is known for its stunning architectural design, grand staircase, and opulent interiors. The Palais Garnier has been hosting prestigious opera performances and ballets since its opening in 1875. It is truly a place where art and culture intertwine, attracting visitors from around the world who are eager to witness the beauty and splendor of this historical gem. Whether you are an opera enthusiast or simply appreciate architectural masterpieces, the Palais Garnier is a must-see destination that will leave you in awe of its grandeur and elegance.