Move over Liz and Dick. Wednesday saw a different example of the marriage of British elegance to ostrich-feathered ostentation. This one came courtesy of Dries Van Noten, who managed to extract the volatility of the original while keeping it utterly captivating.
Van Noten wasn’t thinking of Hollywood marriage per se (he did reference another on-screen union — Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — with a wacky take on his soundtrack of “Cheek to Cheek”). Yet he absolutely intended a collection of extremes. Perhaps after spring’s grown-up grunge session, Van Noten decided to focus on mannish tailoring in precise cuts, outsized proportions and traditional fabrics.
“And what’s really the opposite of men’s wear is the exaggerated women’s wear,” he said during a preview. “For me, I think about ice-skating. The diamond embellishment is there, the stones are always just a little bit bigger, the decoration is often feathers and fringes. It’s kind of the women’s wear invading the men’s elements in the collection.”
Van Noten announced said invasion from the first look out, an amply proportioned coat with explosive red and gold embroidery down one side, belted in a skinny strip of crystals and worn over gray trousers. He continued on with the tailoring — a twist on the three-piece suit, here a jacket over skirt over pants; trompe l’oeil dresses that appeared to be layered pieces. With the British wools as his base, the designer sometimes introduced rich, pale brocades into the mix. Almost every look bore some fusion of masculine and feminine: the austerity of a jacket and pants interrupted by an all-over fringed chemise; the collegiate dash of a big, striped sweater countered with an embroidered velvet skirt. Another sweater look — slouchy dark gray knit over a tiered, tailored skirt — got its girly glow from a giant “diamond” brooch placed on the hip.
As for the feathers, they made their first sparse (though hardly discreet) appearance as here-and-there wisps fastened with crystals to a gray men’s coat. And then they grew and grew, into airy borders and full-frontal froth — in one case, we’re talking bright coral over yellow froth. But vulgar? Not a chance. It’s part of Van Noten’s particular genius that he can turn elements as potentially frightening as those of a gussied-up, glitzed-out skating outfit into a thing of beauty.