Paris Fashion Week attendees might have thought that their churchin’ was done for the day when Kanye West’s 100-strong gospel choir belted out its final “amen” in a tiny theater in the 10th arrondissement Sunday morning.
That’s until Thom Browne skippered Noah’s Ark down the Seine and docked it at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts.
Browne used the notion of that biblical boat — or, more accurately, its two-of-every-animal passenger manifest — as the way into his women’s and men’s fall and winter 2020 runway collections, presented in a single coed show for the first time.
That meant 33 pairs of fantastically well-dressed creatures walking the runway two-by-two and hand in hand, led down the faux-snow-covered runway by a towering, powering anthropomorphic giraffe, clad in a white duchess silk floor-length tailcoat and a white duchess silk corset paired with a red, white and blue repp stripe silk skirt and bow-hoof platform shoes, that practically stole the show.
Backstage after the show, Browne explained that Noah’s Ark was only the starting point. “I liked the idea of them at the start coming out in exact pairs but I like talking about the future,” he said. “So then [we went] into mixed-up pairs because that’s how life should be right now. Everybody should be able to be who they want to be.”
Browne added that the mix-and-match, two-by-two, which-is-which presentation — the models wore veils that helped erase the gender distinctions even further — was also a way of making a clear connection between the two sides of his business, which shared a catwalk here for the first time.
“I wanted to blur the line between the men and the women,” he said, "[and] have them basically wear the exact same thing; the same fabrics, the same proportions.”
The critter-themed couples — identifiable by the black leather, pebble-grained animal-shaped bags they carried — ran from anteaters (who wore oversized Prince of Wales check cardigan coats, jackets and skirts) to zebras (clad in frayed-edge, black-and-white Prince of Wales Chesterfield coats with intarsia stripes paired with matching skirts).
Team zebra’s frayed edges were among the several elements that gave the superbly tailored collection a deconstructed/reconstructed vibe that we haven’t seen in Browne’s collections before.
Other examples here include the patchworked coats and trousers (worn by the cheetah couple) and the frayed radial appliques adorning the skirts and jackets of the turtle twosome.
The most memorable riff on the theme came by way of team sheep’s looks. The duo wore gray wool suit trousers repurposed into halter tops and skirts made from navy blue blazers and striped dress shirts layered inside.
In addition to Mr. Giraffe and his show-opening gambol, some of the other standouts included the down-filled navy blue ripstop nylon puffer coats with allover elephant-silhouette buttons and a tweed-and-silk mixed fabrication cape (capes are so hot right now!) with an intricate intarsia landscape scene that included a suited man being chased by a hippo. (Browne assured us that it was in no way autobiographical.)
If this is what the Thom Browne take on gender-neutral dressing looks like, then point us Ark-ward because we’re totally on board.