“Strong women. Some glamour is involved.” Were that written in a joblisting, who wouldn’t want in? In fact, the words are a statement ofpurpose from Dries Van Noten. Though spoken specifically about hisspring collection, they could serve as the designer’s permanent tagline. Van Noten is a master of au courant power dressing. His clothesradiate a kind of glamour that, for all their abundant bells andwhistles, telegraph a sense of comfort and psychological security.

Springwas a mélange of disparate elements brought into clear, fabulous focus.In advance of his exhibit in February at Les Arts Décoratifs, Van Notenwent into its archives for 19th-century jacquards — rich, opulentflorals — which he reproduced with glorious visual accuracy. He addedpilings of ruffles: pleated, swirled and tightly packed. He counteredthe grand romance of the former and girlishness of the latter withearthy tribal weaves, and then contrasted the intense decorative natureof all three against raw, utilitarian cottons and linens. A tiny starprint countered the scale of giant florals, and a barbed-wire print,their prettiness.

There were hints of the gypsy in billowingsleeves and full skirts (shades of Loulou de la Falaise) and of thechoreographer Fong Leng in the structured frou. The audaciousextravagance of it all might have turned decadent were Van Noten not astalwart believer in form following function.

Here were clothesthat work: the roomy jackets and pants with a hint of the Eighties; thetrenchcoat over white shirt and black pants, perfectly discreet save forthe flash of a dazzling gold vest; the sweaters which, whether finishedin a dense thicket of artisanal fringing or with a flamboyant, ruffledswath, were merely sweaters.

It was a spectacular fusion of reality with showmanship. Strong women. Some glamour. Endless fashion.

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