Thom Browne: Le Brun in forty shades of black and white
It felt more like a couture show than a ready-to-wear event at Thom Browne on Sunday night, the latest artistic statement by the American designer inspired by the legendary French painter Vigée Le Brun.
Browne set up the main gallery of the City Hall of Paris like an artist's studio, with a dozen ladies in enormous huge gray pants and brown painting blazers posed with elongated brushes before easels, that actually carried graphic dot paintings by the designer.
Out marched the cast in a brilliant series of deconstructed fashion; growing gradually more undressed as the show progressed. The images were frequently beautiful. All done in forty shades of chiaroscuro black and white, except for their hair in golden hairnets.
Delightful negligee dresses finished in pearls, mink petals, organza panels and white lace. Black calico bustiers trimmed with micro pearls; patchwork organza and fur blazers. Remarkable anatomic gestures, like the stiff woman’s torso worn as a cocoon skirt. Or coatdresses, split vertically between a charcoal ribbon coat and a putty gray cocktail. Or a stunning slim crinoline topped by a New Orleans lady of the night bustier. Everything that vital bit unexpected with trompe l’oeil shading, various marble effects, garters and bras everywhere.
This was indeed a different vision of Le Brun – the path-breaking court artist who frequently panted Marie Antoinette - than others have had before. Back in 2010, a collection Karl Lagerfeld designed for Chanel portrayed her as an insouciantly sexy damsel in frilly lace frocks. Browne’s vision was inevitably more perverse.
Especially his finale - four models in gray flannels suits, wearing large dog heads, were marched out on leads by a stern lady painter. Though born in a modest milieu, Le Brun eventually ended up the official artist of Marie Antoinette. Her depictions of 18th century society featured provocative and sensual women of ample size. These contemporary models were inevitably very skinny, but hard to imagine that Le Brun would have done anything other than loved this show.
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