Scene setting: It was back to the Hôtel de Ville for showgoers, for the second time in the week after the Dries Van Noten show. This time, though, the gilded, frescoed baroque salons of the Paris Mayor’s office were not the backdrop of some louche, decadently living Dries girl, but what could have been the palace of a prince charming in a fairy tale. One that was complete with fairy godfathers, male models dressed in the unmistakeable Thom Browne tiny-proportioned pleated skirt suits (this time realised entirely in white organza), floating around and brandishing glimmering fairy wands. The room's crystal chandeliers had an adding to them, giant balls of organza shaped to look like planets. We didn’t know it then, but we were being prepared for a unique experience.
Mood board: This was the first time the American designer – a fixture in the Parisian men’s schedule – was showing his women’s collection in the French capital. A designer as epically-minded as Thom Browne was never going to let such a big opportunity get away. For the occasion, he put on a show that could very well compete with any of the ones in the official couture calendar. And, like couture shows, his starting point was ‘unicorns and mermaids, and all the things that little girls dream of’, as he put it. Deep down, the idea was exceedingly simple: take several fairytale tropes. Yes, there were mermaids, but also sleeping beauties, princesses and even a brilliant couture-like finale where the bride was substituted by a gigantic organza unicorn majestically advancing on the runway. Combined with Jodi Benson’s The Little Mermaid soundtrack, it moved the audience, in some cases to tears. Isn’t that what great fairy tales do?
Best in show: No one has even disputed Browne’s extraordinary technical skills. Yesterday’s show, though, went a step further. Chiffon was embroidered, worked as a milefeuille in mermaid skirts, shredded and curled to make it look fantastically fluffy, almost like marabout feathers. Then crafted into blazer jackets, quilt-like motifs or even 3D figures, like the multi-coloured octopus climbing up a model's back. Quilted volumes exaggerated the female form in a sculptural manner. Even simpler tweeds and wools had their proportions reworked, giving them an eerie feeling. Towards the end, embroidery became more present, especially in a stunning two-piece suit gleaming with pastel-coloured sequins that almost looked pointilliste. Browne was not interpreting any fairy tale here; he was creating his own.