Dries Van Noten doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who was ever instructed to think inside the box. But a stroll through the “From Russia” exhibit at London’s Royal Academy of Arts earlier this year got him doing just that. Viewing a Malevich canvas, he recalled on the day before his show, “I thought what emotion a black stripe could give.” He thus determined to design a modernist, graphic collection of mostly black and white while retaining warmth and “optical opulence.” The result was spectacular in a surprisingly quiet way, given the abundance of boxes, grids and graphs that replaced his euphoric florals of the past few seasons. It also offered one of the spring’s few displays of interesting clothes that are also consummately wearable exactly as shown on the runway.
Remember sportswear? Van Noten made it chic again, starting with his first look out, a black sweater, patterned shirt and white pants. Throughout, the looks were as simple as that, a white tank peeking out from a belted coat; a roomy blazer falling loosely over shorts. Often he mixed his geometry via pattern on pattern, a block of rich golden embroidery on something as mundane as a crisp white shirt, or a bold silver necklace with baubles that mirrored the spherical sculpture of the Palais Royal garden where the show took place. And there were colorful box prints, too; one dress had 50 shades of blue. Like the rest of this beautiful collection, it was both strong and soothing.