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Thom Browne backstage
Backstage at Thom Browne SS16Photography Evan Schreiber

Inside Thom Browne’s most twisted show yet

Was it fashion or theatre? We break down the designer’s Japanese school girl inspired SS16 show

Thom Browne always puts on a show. In the past he’s dressed models up like scarecrows, painted them silver like Shirley Eaton in Golden Girl and had them emerge from coffins like vampires. But he’s not just about theatrical fashion shows. Known for his eccentric take on the classic men’s suit, Browne is a designer for the modern dandy and his female equivalent. This season’s show venue contained a building that resembled a classroom. The structure’s purpose was initially unclear, though a pair of legs poking sinisterly out from underneath it led some to believe a Wizard of Oz themed collection was about to ensue. However, as the music began to play – “Japonaiserie” from Kill Bill – people realised that they were Japan – specifically, Quentin Tarantino’s Japan. Here’s three things to know about this show.


Models emerged and walked around the school room, at a glacial pace, before taking their seats inside of it. “I selfishly like people to see my collections for more than ten minutes,” Browne told us, explaining their speed. “I like them to walk at a slow pace because there’s so much to see and so much to appreciate.” Once they had all taken their seats, a teacher-come-bride appeared, wearing similar clothes to the rest, only in white, and with a veil. While the meaning of this performance was unclear, it didn’t need to be clear – it was simply a way for the designer to communicate his idea.


Of course the performance carried a school theme, but the collection did too. “Japanese school girls were the start,” the designer told to us backstage. Think Kill Bill’s Gogo Yubari – the young girl in the school uniform who was O-Ren Ishii's personal bodyguard. Browne’s models also wore uniform – pleated skirts, little jackets, coats and capes. As for their hair, it was plaited into Pippi Longstocking like ponytails and, defying the laws of gravity in the process, fixed upright, like they had been electrocuted. These plaits poked out from the top of straw boaters with black ribbons worn on their heads. 


Though Browne’s reference are always multi-layered, Japan was the overriding one, just as it was at his men’s SS16 show. For a start, traditional Japanese music played throughout the show. Then there was the appliqué work of motifs of Japanese flowers – blossom and chrysanthemums – geishas and pagodas, which was patched into the tailoring. As for the make-up, the model’s faces were painted white like Geishas, with thin, Padmé Amidala like black lips and thick black eyebrows. Even the names of the looks reflected this theme: “Mount Fuji,” “Moon Geisha,” and “Cherry Blossom.”

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