During a preview the day before his show, Dries Van Noten said he was in the mood for a little fun this season, which was interesting since neither the overarching military theme nor the mood of the collection he showed Wednesday was particularly light. Rather, what Van Noten, who’s not prone to perverse head games, considered a good time was departing from his terrific cross-cultural inspirations (“For us, it’s always about combining prints with prints,” he said) and instead, applying that mash-up treatment to various periods of fashion — Fifties, Sixties, Seventies — with beautiful, graceful results.
Contrast, mostly the idea of formal versus casual, was key, beginning with Van Noten’s venue, a grand hall in the Hotel de Ville, its opulent painted ceilings strung with a dozen crystal chandeliers that stood in gilded counterpoint to the collection’s elegant, yet relative simplicity. Dark, classic tones, like black, navy and camel, and clean cuts ruled as Van Noten played prim silhouettes, silk dresses with full skirts worn over petticoats of the Fifties against dressed-down utility wear via slouchy, deconstructed sweatshirts in basic gym clothes gray. Sometimes Van Noten fused the glam and the lax quite obviously, decorating a sportif parka with glass embroidery, or sewing a tailored military sleeve on a classic ladylike dress, done in one of the lineup’s rich, hand-painted silks that came in deep purple, blue and green.
Those lush painted patterns and a few animal prints on furs and blouses aside, the collection left a clean, sometimes plain impression thanks to tailored, military details. The latter is a common thought right now, but Van Noten’s approach wasn’t pedestrian in the least. While there was a relaxed, insouciant air to much of the utilitarian sportswear, precise lines and amplified proportions gave it a quiet power, nowhere more evident than the jackets sculpted with darts and pintucks to create an hourglass waist.