Feb 27, 2013

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Fashion Week: Thom Browne Fall 2013

One of the spectacular looks from Thom Browne Fall 2013

One of the spectacular looks from Thom Browne Fall 2013

Though I’ve only seen (online) a few of the shows at Fashion Week, Thom Browne’s really speaks to me.  If you don’t usually look at the shows, or have never watched a video of one, this is a good choice due to its theatricality.  Tom and Lorenzo include the video at the end of the commentary; here it is.

This show is a perfect example of Haute Couture that won’t be ‘watered down’ for retail.  The first thing that jumps out is the silhouette.  Those shoulders are something else, aren’t they?  They reference all sorts of things, from the 1940s to movie stars of the same era, to strength and power dressing.  But the whole silhouette is balanced:  big shoulders with a tiny, nipped in waist, and then out again at the hip.  The silhouette is also reminiscent of the peplum, which is not going away anytime soon.  The palette takes a subdued collection of perfectly autumnal grays and splashes them with shocks of rose red.  Browne’s background as a menswear designer is showcased beautifully too, both in structure and in materials:  you can even see a tie here and there.

The spectacle of the show reminds me a bit of earlier Alexander McQueen shows, as does the “creepiness” factor.  It’s all sort of odd but beautiful but disturbing but gorgeous:  it’s like you can’t decide what it is, and how it’s making you feel.  This is what, for me, puts it in the category of fashion as art.  Because, let’s face it:  you’d better have a PhD in style to wear these clothes.  I have no doubt Helena Bonham Carter, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett or Lady Gaga could rock any of these, and they probably will.

But as fabulous as we are, we’re no Gaga, right?  Then why should we care about this show?  Why should we be interested in big-shouldered, Edwardian-looking ladies with crazy birds’ nest/beehive hair?  (Though if I had my way, I’d wear my hair like this every day!  I love it!).  However, I’d never look at this and think:  “Okay, now where can I find white tights with roses on them?”  Fashion shows like this are about ideas.  They put me in mind of things like:  why are strong shoulders so attractive?  Why do they reappear so often?  Why are menswear fabrics so often appropriated for women’s clothes?  Why do we still consider some fabrications “menswear” as opposed to “womenswear”?  Why is this palette so neutral, when other shows for Fall 2013 have a lot of unexpected and non-traditional fall colors in them?

I think I look at a show like this like I’d look at art:  I can admire it without necessarily wanting to own it (or wear it, for that matter).  I can be inspired by someone else’s vision, which is so unlike my own.  I can decide which trends, if any, I like and may want to incorporate this fall.  But I never think I can (nor do I want to) replicate what I’m seeing on the runway.  If I’m looking at the runway as art, I can set aside my frustration with fashion’s narrow parameters for beauty, because even the most commonly accepted version of beautiful is going to have a tough time pulling off these looks.  In this instance, it’s not about beauty as much as it is about vision.

What do you think?  Are you in the habit of looking at the shows in New York, London, Milan or Paris?  Do you think they have anything to say to you?  Or do you like your fashion a bit more realistic and attainable?

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