To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, it may be the test of a first-ratenervous system when a designer can plan two very different kinds ofshows — one runway, one museum — at the same time and set to open duringthe same week, while retaining the ability to function.

Halfwaythrough, Dries Van Noten is functioning just fine, thank you. The fallcollection he showed on Wednesday was audacious and practical in equalmeasure, making for powerful, chic-with-a-twist viewing. The ruse:Bridget Riley-inspired Op Art graphics and a potent, color-centricrave-culture intensity layered onto Van Noten’s hyper-focused clotheswith their unmistakable men’s wear dash.

“I wanted to do color, Iwanted to do fun, so we called it ‘Coutorama,’” Van Noten said during apreview. “It’s sharp lines of graphic motifs, it’s acids, it’s raves.”And contrasting the precision frenzy: glistening hand-painted silverflowers “to bring out the random feel. I wanted the human to comethrough.”

That said, one of Van Noten’s great strengths is hisability to control visually intense motifs; any apparent randomness isintentional, thought out and rendered meticulously; his swirls,overlapping triptych circles and broken-striped grids were applied withbravado executed oh-so-carefully. At times, he went for the contrast ofthe caustic-on-classic: an emblem of descending green and gray circlesfused to a plain, mannish coat; bright discs giving pop to tonyT-shirts. At other times, he opted for full-on visual shock value: apanel of circles, now in canary yellow and gray on a belted jacket infuchsia-and-gray swerved stripes, and bolder still, such graphics onfloral-print separates, their base pattern itself large-scale andvibrant. Undulating stripes were another interpretation, insilver-and-black for a skirt and coat and wide swaths of high-contrastsilk and sequins (blue and orange; maroon and blue) forloud-but-graceful godet skirts and dresses. As for the hand-pieces, theylent an artisanal touch to the demonstrative precision.

Throughout,Van Noten integrated athletic references — jackets and pants withzippers and parachute details that stood in contrast to the collection’smore obviously polished fare. Either way, he kept his proportionsample, right down to the primary accessories: big, still 3-D flowersperched on the shoulder with no small degree of drama.

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