Bag For Two

…and three. And other sartorial delinquents of Thom Browne

The autumn/winter 2022 show is for both people and bears—teddy bears. In the middle of the show venue, Thom Browne sat a classroom (or conference?) of hundreds of teddy bears, all togged in Thom Browne, naturally. Mr Browne has, of course, a thing for toy animals, and they are there, such as the dog-bag Hector—only this time, it comes with two handles meant for a pair! Toy, as metaphor, extended to his beloved New York, to which the show is also homage to, as well as its inhabitants. It isn’t a surprising expression of pride. Mr Browne has always found kinship through his work with those whose outward appearance we might call gila. He calls his home “an island of misfit toys”. And those outsider-oddballs are dressed accordingly, totting bags that are the plush-toy embodiments of pets, as well as those that are more vehicular. Quite a sidewalk of curiosities.

Mr Browne has largely pivoted his designs on the suit, which brandishes his flair for tailoring that is often described as “fastidious”. He is partial to shades of grey, and patterns and textures much tethered to menswear and is even more favourably inclined to include lots of sport coats, especially the uniquely British regatta blazer. But in his hands, they have less in common with those adopted for the sport of rowing than the blazing pieces worn by ringmasters of a cirque (this season, a madcap schoolmaster, perhaps?). Preppiness may also be the seeming effect, but subversiveness is clearly part of the equation, for the Thom Browne fan is no collegiate stiff.

The show could be considered a two-parter: the first, what would be ‘standard’ (not disparagingly) Thom Browne. The regatta blazer with a particularly constricted tailoring that is very much a part of the brand’s recognisability plays its versatile role. The pieces are designed to be gender-neutral—teamed with skirts, no-issue staples among the guys. Most are pleated, with inserts that could be club ties. Or, paneled with what could be fancy washing machine outlet hoses, in clashing fabrics. Some of the skirts are above the knee and worn over demure wide-cuffed culottes. On the whole, the outfits are enchanting, with a digestible schoolhouse prim that is possibly even more appealing, perhaps, in the US, where the wearing of school uniforms is not adopted.

But Mr Browne has to have fun too, and when he does, so do we. In the second part, the clothes take a fantastical spin, crossing too closely over to the absurd, tempered by their couture-ness. There is no denying the skill level required to make these outfits that defy the shape of the body: massive quilted coat with lobster pincer to glove the hands, giant golf ball-as-bodice for a sweater, bulbous protuberances on lean dresses, multiple sleeves on one-piece outers, a box shape of a toy soldier for a top, and the immense crinolines that even Scarlet O’Hara’s Mammy would find challenging to handle. Despite their wow-inducing effect, it does beg the question: would all these aesthetical aberrations be possible without the path layed out by stalwarts such as John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo of Conme des Garçons? Regardless, they are all in time for next week’s Gilded Glamour at the Met.

Screen grab (top): YouTube. Photos: Don Lecca/vogue.com

It’s A Menagerie!

With Louis Vuitton now joining the zoological race, ‘It bags in the shapes of animals seem to still hold petting appeal

Clockwise from top left: Nigo X Louis Vuitton Duck bag, Loewe Bunny bag, Loewe’s Mini Elephant Anagram bag, and Thom Browne’s Hector bag that started it all

Photographs of a new Louis Vuitton bag were supposedly ‘leaked’ a few days ago. They showed a new bag, purportedly conceived with one of Virgil Abloh’s favourite collaborators, Nigo—now ready to join Kenzo. The bag, made of the unmistakable brown LV monogram canvas, comes in the shape of a duck! Apparently an airplane bag is not enough, now they’ve moved from a hangar into the animal kingdom, specifically a pond. It is not clear why Nigo chose a member of the Anatidae that looks to us like a common mallard rather than, say, a swan. But what other animal comes to mind when we think of Louis Vuitton (at least Hermes can be linked to a horse)? Certainly not cousin of Donald? Perhaps for ease of design, the duck makes practical sense—the wings easily provide for two zippered side pockets (as shown in the photos). And the body capacious enough for present-day necessities. But is the duck cute? Or, sexy?

These are, of course, not insipid, flat bags in the silhouette of an animal (e.g. an owl. Or, Hello Kitty!), easily found anywhere, and online. We are not even referring to Loewe’s elephant-headed raffia basket bag, attractive as it is. We are pointing to those that are fully fleshed-out, in three-dimensional forms, such as those in Loewe’s very own increasingly large animal farm. These are mostly not predatory animals, and are designed to accompany the user like a pet. But the real advantage of these is that, unlike a companion animal, the LV duck and the Loewe rabbit can be carried anywhere, even on a plane (when the time comes). Or, to a restaurant, Michilen-starred or not. And you don’t even have to feed it, except with whatever you want it to stomach!

The creature that started it all is Hector, the canine-carrier Thom Browne first showed in his Autumn–Winter 2016 collection, based on his actual pet, a dachshund named, of course, Hector. The realistic-looking bag caught on so quickly that even grown women were smitten by it. Like most designers’ dogs, Hector has his own Instagram account and, as you can imagine, is extremely famous, but is outdone by a cat—the late Karl Legerfeld’s Choupette. Although Hector typically costs around USD4,000 to USD5,000, depending on its hide, one of its early forms—in crocodile—was asking for USD35,000! The price of LV’s duck is not yet known. But it’d be less dear, we suspect, and a one-time payment. No additional grooming costs and charges from visits to the vet. This is no quack!

Product photos: respective brands. Illustrations: Just So

These Stripes Won’t Do

Adidas is at it again. This time, they’re suing Thom Browne

They are four rows instead of three (at least seen in the above photo), yet Adidas thinks Thom Browne’s parallel lines are exactly like the former’s. The German brand is suing Thom Browne for “selling athletic-style apparel (also seen above) and footwear featuring two, three, or four parallel stripes in a manner that is confusingly similar to Adidas’s three-stripe mark,” according to the trademark infringement claim filed in New York and reported in the media. It is understandable that three lines, even of different widths, could be “confusingly similar”, but two or four of them will cause confusion, even when everyone not living under a rock knows Adidas never use less than three? That’s confusing! Or is this because lawyers under Adidas’s payroll need to justify their existence? Don’t you dare!

Trademarks, of course, need to be protected, but is it possible that Adidas does not seem confident of their unmistakable, although unremarkable, graphical branding even as they say, “for over half a century, [they] extensively and continuously [have] used and promoted the three-stripe mark in connection with apparel and footwear”? Despite holding fast to the three stripes, Adidas does not consider it adequate or long enough since “confusing” is apparently the result when similar marks appear. And the only way to make things less “confusing” is to take a litigious approach. According to a 2017 Bloomberg report, Adidas had, by then, filed nearly 50 lawsuits to secure its trademarked stripes.

The suit also stated that, previously, there was mediation between Adidas and Thom Browne, beginning in November 2020. Nothing was resolved, it seems. But in a statement responding to Adidas’s charges—quoted by WWD—a spokesperson claimed that they did their part and “acted honorably for all this time”. He added that “Adidas consented for 12 years and now they’re changing their mind. The court won’t allow that. And consumers won’t as well. It’s an attempt to use the law illegally.”

We do not know that the illegal use of the law exists. But as consumers, we are definitely not confused by Thom Browne’s use of the stripes, which, graphic designers will agree, are themselves generic lines and are “devoid of any distinctive character”, as the EU Intellectual Property Office, which had rejected Adidas’s trademark application, said in 2016 (a ruling upheld by an EU court in 2019). Many of us do no think that the Adidas stripes look anything like Thom Browne’s. But never mind what the rest of us actually think. It only matters what Adidas think we may think, stupid us! Will Adidas sue Kit Kat next?

File photo: Zhao Xiangji/SOTD

Hare Cuts

Thom Browne vs Thom BrowneDo you want to look like a rabbit or is a bunny-print shirt good enough? Left: Rabbit head gear at Thom Browne’s A/W 2014 show. Right: Thom Browne cotton poplin button-down shirt

The headwear that Thom Browne showed during his Autumn/Winter presentation in January could be considered cute, teamed with those sombre grey suits. Designed by Stephen Jones, the masks and hats—fashioned out of suiting fabrics into animal heads—may not have been Looney Tunes-adorable, but they were sure able to put a smile on your face the way Porky and co could. In fact, you could almost hear Mr Jones mouthing Bugs Bunny: “Eeeeeeh, watch me paste that pathetic palooka with a powerful, pachydermous, percussion pitch!” While cuteness derived from a cartoonish representation of known creatures may have a place in women’s wear, they have a less sound position in a man’s wardrobe (and we’re not talking about those of guys who have just RODed from NS and weaned on UTs). This is why when the cute appears on shirts, it may not necessarily win hearts.

Just as we were wondering how Mr Browne will sell his take on the world of Simba and friends, out comes this button-down shirt with repeated patterns of rabbits aleaping. Everything about this shirt speaks of the tailoring one associates with business shirts, but it is hard to imagine a CFO wanting to wear this to witness the signing of an acquisition. Yet, the shirt is not without its charm: the bunnies centrally placed within a grid have the orderliness of pattern as in a classic plaid, but with just a tad more fun. Why keep leporid lovability only to your socks?

Thom Browne’s designs are not always easy to understand. On the racks, his clothes look simple enough to wear (even when his signature shirts are usually in heat-unfriendly heavy Oxfords), but on the catwalk, they’re more suited for showroom dummies than walking mannequins. Yet, Mr Browne continues to win all-round plaudits of the critics. Let him do the weird stuff on stage, just send the good stuff to the store.

Thom Browne bunny-print shirt, SGD1060, is available at Club 21, Four Seasons Hotel