“The show was full of optimism,” said one of Thom Browne’s seagulls after he had turned back into a human and indeed, despite its black sand and single palm tree, the island backdrop of Spring 2017’s show had nothing to do with a post-apocalyptic vision. Even the character sitting at its base, white-faced and silent, seemed a statue in repose rather than a menacing omen.
After requesting a moment of silence for the late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham who had passed Saturday, during which you could have heard a pin drop, Thom Browne proceeded to take his audience on an impromptu surf trip.
Soon enough, to the opening bars of John William’s omnious Jaws soundtrack, a shark started circling the island, all leather mask and tailored suit with a fin protruding out the back. As Browne’s frogmen marched onto the island, looking like so many grey-colored villainous Penguins straight out of Batman (move over Gvasalia’s Balenciaga) come to roost, the wide frame of their neoprene wetsuit telegraphed two things. One, that no matter the material, cutting a suit is definitely what Browne came ashore for. Two, they were obviously hiding the main event with their one-size-fits-all-and-sundry.
Underneath those first grey wetsuits were one-piece suits. Exquisitely detailed and just as technical as their retail counterparts will be, they were a wholesome summer image: grass green flashes, hibiscus embroideries, seersucker jackets, overcoats, short suits and more in delicious sherbet shades that unequivoquially said “Surf’s up”, not to mention “Ring me up” when they arrive cut up to retail size.
The Great White circling around models seemed more cruising than bruising. Birds of a feather circled here and there, looking like they had gobbled too many overripe fruits, looping around other models who were being adjusted by the lone island-dweller of the beginning.
The second layer soon peeled off, revealing incredibly camp knit swimwear that wouldn’t look out of place in a mid-century seaside romp, decorated in floral motifs, stripes and other seaside Americana. Each model folded their second wetsuit neatly and collected it with shoes before dissapearing backstage. A moment later, they all returned with Thom Browne longboards (available at a surf shop near you) matching their outfits and posed gamely for photographs after the show.
As sinister as the grayscale setting may have been and as much as you wanted to dissect its subtext three ways from Sundays, it was a summer caper rather than a cautionary tale. Against the dark backdrop, the colors shone. For a moment, an entire audience obsessed with the busy, buzzy lives were engrossed in what was unfolding with the delight of a child at the puppet theatre.
Thom Browne’s greatest power is not his ability to cut a suit (however peerless it may seem at times) but his storytelling. Within the space of a show, he pulled fashion’s ability to transport, transform and enthrall. He entertained and suspended disbelief in a way that few have managed in recent years. There was no better way to end a menswear season which didn’t charm and ended with a sense of unadulterated loss.
Writer, journalist, storyteller, editor - Based in Paris - Typing up a storm on real and virtual keyboards, thanks to a curiosity like a small gauge sieve, exploring the world of creation one question at the time.