It's theatrical legend that Edward Albee wrote his masterwork Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? about two male couples. Thom Browne made legend reality today by staging his guys-and-dolls fantasy with an all-male cast. On the one hand, über-pinstriped suits, über-shouldered coats, and menacing glares. On the other, flapper fringes, long strands of pearls, and coquettish stares from under thoroughly modern Millie's cloche hat. All those gangsters and molls, plus socks with zips. Zippered socks!
There are two things that are essential for attendance at a Thom Browne show (well, three, if you count the invitation): patience and a sense of humor. The designer staged his Spring show in Maxim's, the legendary Art Nouveau eatery on rue Royale. With the mercury hitting the mid-90s in the street outside, the shadowy red plush of the restaurant's air-conditioning-free interior took on a semblance of hell. It was an appropriate setting for another of Browne's typically surreal assaults on menswear convention.
He aims to entertain, so what's the point in a po-faced dissection of outfits whose primary purposes were amusement and visual provocation? There were pointers to new facets of the collection that will be seen and sold in stores—those shoulders, for instance, and a new feel for sportiness (look harder, it's there)—but they were literally buried under a weight of patterns and textures that came on as strong as Kabuki.
And that's where the patience comes in. In a theatrical display such as the one today, Browne's clothes require a stately pace that suspends the usual fashion-show urgency. By the time he showed his Eartha Kitt outfit (it was her voice on the soundtrack as the model paraded in a black sequined caftan decorated with red opium poppies), the Champagne, the plush, and the heat had done for the crowd.