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Thom Browne Activates Absurdist Drama in a Flourish of Fashion

By Erin Moonyeen Haley

In the dark, there was the ticking of a clock. Or perhaps it was the sound of a typewriter, of a key being struck continuously. Whatever it was, it was mechanical and steady. Then, about twenty-three minutes in, it was joined by the sound of a plane with a twin propeller engine diving low, followed by another, and yet, always, there was the staccato of the clock, the reminder that time was passing in a steady, almost monotonous beat. And then a voice in the darkness:

“We find ourselves in the desert

A plane has crashed.”

With that prologue, the scene was set and the show began.

Lights went up, revealing a stage with globular moons hanging like rice paper lanterns, and stars scattered in a haphazard array that was reminiscent of Georges Méliès's Le Voyage dans la Lune.

As a whimsical flute serenaded away the sound of the clock, a model emerged at last. But she did not strut or sashay. At first, she moved around the stage as if a bit dazed from the crash itself. The theatrics were evident in her debut costume, with a voluminous, pseudo-astronaut-inspired button-up piece, made with exaggerated padding at the thighs and revealing a blue and tropical green floral shirt beneath. Her lipstick was a deep sapphire and she carried a helmet. She had either just been somewhere fantastic or she was on her way.

In some ways, Browne was the ringmaster of a Theater of the Absurd spectacle full of existential dynamics and minimalism, all of which perfectly dovetailed the fashion. Just as that 1950s-era theater utilized a round or egg-shaped stage, so too did Browne have models maneuver around oversized aviation props on a circular platform.

As the designer who was unanimously elected to the position of Chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, when Browne took over the position he promised that he would elevate creativity above all else. That anthem was evident on February 14th when stars such as Queen Latifah took in the spectacle that included oversized suits with askew hems, mismatched fabrics and cage-like sculptures as headdresses.

There were also all-white ensembles consisting of voluptuous sleeves made from layers and layers of sheer fabric, mixing in the essence of a fairytale with the fabulist scene.

At first glance, the suits might appear ordinary, but at a second glance, they were anything but; plaids were overlaid with stripes and pants were half-concealed with layered skirts.

Oversized coats were long and exaggerated, teasing the businessman silhouette with cartoonish whimsy and delight.

Skirts were given a balletic charm with tulle petticoats.

Face paint added to the drama, accenting cheeks and hairlines.

Joan Miró seemed to have inspired sheath dresses, while white powder thickened around the eyes to complete the harlequin motif.

Celebrities were out in droves to support Browne's line. In the audience were Lil Nas X, Erykah Badu, Johnny, Christine Baranski and Queen Latifah.

~ Images Courtesy of Vogue


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