Thom Browne’s show at Pitti Uomo, the Italian menswear trade show, has been the talk of the town this week. Held at the Istituto di Scienze Militari Aeronautiche in Florence, it was the designer’s first time to show in Europe. For anyone unfamiliar with Browne, the show made for an excellent primer.
“A lot of Europeans don’t know me,” Browne said. “So I wanted to do something very signature. This presentation shows where it all started and what I’m all about.” (WWD, pass protected)
I was immediately thrilled to see his mantra of “beauty is uniformity” left intact, but upon closer inspection, I realize the show is really a languorous advertisement for vintage Steelcase office furniture, Smith Corona typewriters, and Samsonite briefcases. Accessories aside, the theatre of his show is what I found most attractive. His Orwellian approach with the desk bell keeping time, the honeycomb-like colonization of the desks, and the Thombots reminded me of many McCarthy-era plays, and one film of the time, Orson Welles’ The Trial based on Kafka’s novel (TCM, 1/27, 6pm EST).
By taking the suit, the white collar uniform, and turning into an actual uniform, he does what few other designers are capable of: he celebrates the beauty of the uniform, of its quality, its sameness, while poking fun at its utter ridiculousness, poking fun at the even more ridiculous notion of mankind’s struggle for and against conformity.