Thom Browne goes twenty thousand leagues under the sea
On Sunday, Thom Browne took his guests on a trip beneath the waves to a fantastical world that was as wonderful as it was troubling. For his Spring/Summer 2019 womenswear collection, the American designer, whose brand was just acquired by Ermenegildo Zegna, took his lead from the menswear wardrobe he presented in June.
At first glance, one could feel the same childlike burlesque playfulness that ran through the brand's latest menswear offering, as a series of pieces reproduced the pastel colours, gingham and wide stripes that characterised the collection, as well as the prints featuring whales, anchors and little boats.
Very quickly though, dissonances began to emerge. The cutesy patterns and prints were still there but were twisted into patchwork outfits made from different materials which had been overlapped or sewn together to produce irregular ensembles plastered with sequins, embroidery, pearls and shells.
Almost all of the models looked as though their lips had been taped shut with gold leaf or had their faces hidden by masks which ranged from simple scuba apparatus to more frightening masks with sewn-up mouths. Not to mention the giant pieces of fruit balanced precariously on the heads of some models, including a pair of cherries, a pineapple and even a slice of watermelon, all of which added to the unsettling allure of the show.
In the Tennis Club de Paris' vast reception room, Thom Browne set up a beach complete with meticulously raked sand, white and blue striped beach huts and lifeguards perched on observation towers – a perfect set that the designer took delight in invading with strange marine creatures.
A pinkish pearl-embroidered starfish made itself at home on a transparent tunic and multiplied, bermuda shorts and jackets were covered with white pelican-like feathers, and a mermaid in a never-ending sheath dress covered in scaly golden sequins saw her hands disappear in a foamy tide of tulle which cascaded down to the floor.
Underwater flowers took over a jacket, wrapping the model's body and arms together with their long vine-like stems. Elsewhere it was a corset that clamped a model's arms behind her back, where her hands were transformed into giant lobster claws.
In a number of other outfits, the clothes were pulled tight with strings as though trying to stifle the wearers' bodies. The long silk sleeves of a leaf-appliqué straitjacket, for example, were knotted behind a model's back, completely restricting her movement. Could it be that the clothes are rebelling? Or is it simply a punky bondage spin on Alice in Wonderland?
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