What's not to love about a runway look that combines a three-piece burgundy corduroy suit, a unicorn lapel pin, a pair of Christian Louboutin slippers and a genuine maroon felt Moroccan fez?
That was one of the outfits that menswear designer Marlon Gobel sent down a narrow runway in the foyer of the Park Avenue Armory in New York on Thursday.
That the show took place under the watchful gaze of oil paintings of decorated military men from generations past, uniforms bristling with coded rank and insignia was appropriate, given that Gobel had chosen to explore the idea of secret orders -- the Odd Fellows, the Freemasons, the Knights of Pythias and the like.
"Menswear has all this ceremonial stuff behind it," Gobel explained to me after the show. "People wear it and don't know why, so I envisioned this mythical club that worships unicorns."
We didn't get a chance to learn much more about Gobel's mysterious Order of the Unicorn, but based on the show we can tell you that in addition to unicorns, corduroy and Christian Louboutin shoes (with a trademark red sole that is a secret signal all by itself) its members have a penchant for hand-painted velvet blazers that depict storm-tossed ships, forested woodlands and soaring cliffs, crisp rep-stripe ties, and dress shirts in brightly patterned madras, blue-micro-checked and micro-gingham patterns.
Many of the outfits were styled with gold braided belts with side tassels the size of hand bells at the hip, reminiscent of the huge tasseled pull-cords used to pull back heavy velvet theater curtains.
And that's what Gobel was doing with his fall/winter 2011 collection -- trying to pull back the curtains on the customs and rituals behind hundreds of years of menswear.
Sure, shawl-collar sweaters with intarsia designs of prancing unicorns, black cashmere shrugs and velveteen worn plaid three-piece suits may come off as a little over the top when styled together on a single runway, but most of Gobel's goods would be right at home in a well-rounded, fashion-forward wardrobe.
Or maybe even that next Shriners lodge meeting.
-- Adam Tschorn in New York
Photos: Looks from the Marlon Gobel fall/winter 2011 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times