Thom Browne may be among the American designers who send their looks down Parisian runways, but that doesn't mean he's abandoned the States. This Wednesday, Browne debuted a high-style phone during New York Fashion Week.
Just as he charmed us with his fresh take on outmoded preppy fashions, Browne's Samsung Galaxy Z Flip may yet lure us back to the collapsible phone of the early aughts. The device is well-tailored, sleek, made from foldable glass—and, in true Thom Browne fashion, all about the details. “It was important to create a small story around the phone,” Browne tells us. “We are taking something that we remember from the past and bringing it into the present, while making it timeless enough so that it can flow into the future.”
When it came time to show off this swanky new technology, Browne set the stage accordingly. Inside Sotheby’s Gallery 1—an industrial-style space that vacillates between sterile and futuristic—the designer staged a performance piece inspired by corporate office life.
The designer’s hallmark red, white, and blue stripe ran from the center of the floor, all the way up the walls. An army of models clad in Browne’s signature gray suits sat stoically at desks placed neatly in rows, illuminated by Jo Hammerborg's mid-century President table lamps. Vintage Olivetti Lettera typewriters sat in front of each "worker," with a blank sheet of paper locked and loaded. The phones were there too, placed discreetly on a shelf of the desk, just out of sight.
And then, it began: one model began weaving through each row with military precision; a tapping noise mimicking shoes on a pavement played to the beat of his steps, and ambient noise filled the room. The phrase “I’m not ready” blared repeatedly overhead, as models transcribed it vigorously, over and over at their machines. Cellphones began ringing, and eventually the models answered. The music transitioned from ambient to romantic, and “I’m not ready” switched to “I am ready now.” One by one, the models slipped their phones into the perfectly-sized inner pockets, and join their “commander” snaking through the space, and eventually slipping out of sight.
“I wanted to show that the people in my story weren’t ready until they had the technology to move forward,” Browne says. “They were, in a sense, responding to the future. When the technology was finally there, they were ready to go.” While the setup itself was marked by mid-century modern furnishings arranged in a cubicle-like fashion, there was a futuristic quality to the scene that Brown created. An absence of color drew the eye to other places—silhouettes, sounds, materials—that played with all of the senses. As Browne explained, “The room was set to be understandable and familiar, but in a way that felt unfamiliar as well.”
While the Galaxy Z Flip was leaked just weeks ahead of the performance, no amount of press could diminish the effect of experiencing the phone in person. If there's anything Browne knows how to orchestrate, after all, it's an experience.
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