Consider the bar sky-high. Set, in this most anticipated of Paris seasons, not by one of the “new” guys, but by Dries Van Noten (which is not to say he’s an old guy). In a dissertation on finding the magic in sartorial reality, and within one’s own distinctive vernacular, Van Noten took the young, gritty concepts of punk and grunge and transported them to a place grown-up, elegant and drop-dead gorgeous.
“I wanted to go back to having fun with clothes,” the designer said in a preview. “It’s everything that I love. It has that kind of men’s wear/women’s wear, kind of grungy, spontaneous feel.”
Do not think simplicity per se, even if the building blocks were the stuff of familiarity and comfort — pajamas, bathrobes, flannel (albeit fake and fancified-up), a slouchy cardigan, a slipdress — as Van Noten also said that “after all those seasons of quite minimal and plainness of the work, I just wanted to go for it.”
Go for it he did, taking those basic pieces and cutting them in the plaids and checks of retro street culture, pattern clashing against pattern, sometimes in the same garment; shirts, for example, were different coming and going. Yet lightness reigned, in both color (muted pastels that held court with earthier tones) and in the constructions of the fabrics. Besides the obvious silk chiffons, organzas and crepe de chines, Van Noten’s velvets, denim and mannish suitings looked weighty but were not.
Like much of the tailoring, the unabashed, high-brow decorativeness was informed by the designer’s fascination with couture. Skirts were adorned in front with appliqués of tightly packed rosettes; a slouchy sweater got lavishly embroidered sleeves; a froth of organza ruffles became a wrap. Invariably, such pieces were shown in concert with mannish elements in the kind of gender distortion that’s a hallmark of Van Noten’s work: a plaid shirt tucked into a richly embroidered skirt with lace overlay; a sheer, giant tent of a gown over a sturdy shirt and pants.
It all looked spectacular. The kind of spectacular that found at least some women in the audience slipping out of professional mode and into “I’d buy that” mode. And that’s a sweet kind, indeed.