Dries Van Noten has a well-established love of exotica, typically expressed via his innovative use of prints. He is also among the increasingly few designers who give their runways over primarily to daywear — real, unapologetic daywear that could, aside from the editorial flourish or two, make a speedy segue from runway to street. In the collection he showed on Wednesday, Van Noten again fused those two core elements to ultrachic effect.
The designer has a particular gift for functioning flamboyance. Back in October, he started scouring the Victoria & Albert Museum for historical Chinese, Japanese and Korean costumes. He then photographed the actual garments — robes, coats, skirts — for large-scale prints that he cut into various pieces to create graphic blocks on the clothes. The side of a lavishly patterned oriental coat became the decorative motif for a skirt; parts of an Eastern skirt, the pattern on a blouse. Sometimes one big, bold graphic made the case, while at others, it was an interesting patchwork.
The technique worked beautifully for silk skirts and dresses. Its daring transfer to coats and jackets transported mannish tailoring from sensible to sensational. Van Noten took respites from the prints to detail some pieces with grand embroideries of cranes and a phoenix, and continued the men’s wear mood with a rugged parka in plasticized velvet. Rather than jar, the visual bravado radiated womanly self-assurance.
If one cared to nitpick (and why not?), the show went on too long. Or maybe Bon Iver’s downer delivery of “Woods” on the soundtrack just made it feel that way. Then again, perhaps Van Noten considered it a happy indulgence “to slow down the time” after he pushed his V&A contacts to hasten their pace. “Museums think in centuries,” he said in a preview. “They’d say, ‘When do you want this, January?’ Fashion designers think, ‘This afternoon. We need it now.’”