With a runway show held at the Palais Garnier, American designer Thom Browne debuted his first haute couturecollection under a barrage of the color grey (as is, notably, his preferred tone).
The quote-unquote ‘audience’ featured three-thousand cutout onlookers, possibly depicting the commuting everyman, dressed in grey. Browne’s show notes would repeat the word “grey”multiple times, back to back, interspersed by his stylized use of ellipses. Attendees were asked to “wear their best grey.” And, every single look in the collection featured the colour. You get the picture. Yet while grey is often associated with things-less-pleasing — grey days, grey areas — it becomes something galvanizing and twisted in Browne’s fairytale-slash-nightmare-fueled mind.
The loose story for his couture outing was that there was a main character (played by model Alek Wek), seemingly forlorn, waiting in a train station. Her mood turns around upon seeing the personification of her fantasies walk in — the grimness of the scene brightened by the gaiety of the surreal. People as pigeons (one modeled by Jordan Roth), people wearing coats embroidered with lavish undersea vignettes, people with headpieces that were either equine or snail-esque. Passersby wearing bell-shaped hats or bell-curved sleeves on their coats. A bride in super-skinny tailoring (there was excellent tailoring, throughout). All of it theatrical yet interpretable at will — you know how artists refer to blank canvases as starting points? Browne’s canvas is a wall of grey smoke, through which beauties and beasts emerge, one after the other and each more extravagant than the next.
Browne famously doesn’t over-narrate his work. His collections do tend to follow a storyline, but much of it is left up to the viewer to determine. And there's a distinct specialness in this — it makes said viewer feel a little bit more enthralled to see the blueprint of the anecdote but to then colour it (grey or otherwise) with his or her own imagination. It’s cerebral entertainment, and Browne does it better than anyone. Bell-shaped hats off to him.