Headed into Thom Browne’s spring and summer 2012 collaboration with Moncler, I thought for a moment that the designer was finally starting to show honest-to-goodness signs of fashion fatigue –- hallmarks of which include the recycling of old ideas and the return to old venues. First of all, I could have sworn we’d been in the very same building a year earlier to watch him unveil a swim-themed collection around the indoor pool. Second, the show notes said this season’s concept was centered around fencing and tennis -– and again, I swear I’ve seen more tennis-themed Thom (though outside of Moncler Gamme Bleu) than you can shake a racket at -– and fencing is exactly the kind of no-brainer, aristocratic, exotic sport you’d expect to be fodder for Browne’s riffs.
But when the lights came down and the strains of John Williams’ “Star Wars” soundtrack started to fill the room, I knew my fear had been misplaced; Browne had wrapped in elements of the George Lucas mythology -– the faceless drones behind the fencing masks became the Storm Troopers, there were fair-haired Lukes (although no Leias) and even a few dark-garbed Darth Vader types -- one with a camera taped to his chest to simulate the Darth Vader gadgetry, and a second one, with a long, flowing, black cape in athletic mesh that kept getting stuck in the metal floor used for fencing matches.
That the juxtaposition of fencing and “Star Wars” provided so much entertainment was a good thing because this collection seemed to serve up less in the way of wearable wardrobe pieces than any Moncler Gamme Bleu to date. (Then again, maybe I was just preoccupied with trying to figure out which guy was supposed to be Grand Moff Tarkin.) There were a lot of quilted pieces and side buttons, a lot of layering of athletic mesh (although Browne’s been doing it for a while, it’s been popular on the runways at other menswear shows this week), and red-white-and-blue swimwear barely bigger than a square of toilet tissue.
The full collection includes outerwear, suits, jackets, trousers, shorts, shorts and accessories in cotton, lightweight summer wool, Oxford cloth, cotton pique, cotton jersey, cashmere and the requisite technical fabrics Cordura and ripstop nylon -– a nod to Moncler’s roots, across five color groupings: white, black, navy and white, stripes and Prince of Wales.
Personally, I live for the day that Browne’s collaboration has exhausted all the appropriately aristocratic, European sports and finds himself faced with putting together a Moncler Gamme Bleu bowling-, NASCAR-, or Ultimate Frisbee-themed collection.
-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from Milan
Photos: Looks from the Moncler Gamme Bleu spring / summer 2012 runway collection during Milan Fashion Week. Credit: Tullio M. Puglia / Getty Images