“Strong women. Some glamour is involved.” Were that written in a job listing, who wouldn’t want in? In fact, the words are a statement of purpose from Dries Van Noten. Though spoken specifically about his spring collection, they could serve as the designer’s permanent tag line. Van Noten is a master of au courant power dressing. His clothes radiate a kind of glamour that, for all their abundant bells and whistles, telegraph a sense of comfort and psychological security.
Spring was a mélange of disparate elements brought into clear, fabulous focus. In advance of his exhibit in February at Les Arts Décoratifs, Van Noten went into its archives for 19th-century jacquards — rich, opulent florals — which he reproduced with glorious visual accuracy. He added pilings of ruffles: pleated, swirled and tightly packed. He countered the grand romance of the former and girlishness of the latter with earthy tribal weaves, and then contrasted the intense decorative nature of all three against raw, utilitarian cottons and linens. A tiny star print countered the scale of giant florals, and a barbed-wire print, their prettiness.
There were hints of the gypsy in billowing sleeves and full skirts (shades of Loulou de la Falaise) and of the choreographer Fong Leng in the structured frou. The audacious extravagance of it all might have turned decadent were Van Noten not a stalwart believer in form following function.
Here were clothes that work: the roomy jackets and pants with a hint of the Eighties; the trenchcoat over white shirt and black pants, perfectly discreet save for the flash of a dazzling gold vest; the sweaters which, whether finished in a dense thicket of artisanal fringing or with a flamboyant, ruffled swath, were merely sweaters.
It was a spectacular fusion of reality with showmanship. Strong women. Some glamour. Endless fashion.