Thank you, Dries! On Wednesday afternoon, within the gilded majesty of the Hotel de Ville, Dries Van Noten sent a compelling reminder that sometimes the pure fashion experience is enough. It was an important message at a time when many designers are utilizing their runways to wax profound about our complicated, polarized world, rife with dissonance and changing mores and worldviews. That’s great; fashion must reflect its times.
But speaking to the moment doesn’t only mean mining its dark side. Once upon a time, fashion was good for what ailed you. Bottom line, that remains its primary purpose. Fashion can’t right the world’s ills, but it can provide necessary moments of respite: enticement, enchantment, the thought that I might look my very best in this or that dress.
That’s what Van Noten’s collection was all about: clothes to love, and more importantly, to love yourself in. “It really [addresses] the free spirit with free hands, no boundaries just, like, go for it,” Van Noten said during a preview.
No boundaries, perhaps, but savvy awareness of fashion’s current realities. Hence the integration of utilitarian sportswear in high-tech materials. But rather than clobber you with it, Van Noten integrated it into his signature masculine-feminine dialogue, often in lyric opposition to his decorative tendencies. Other stated references: Seventies glam and Poiret, each invoked deftly, in glistening embroideries or the rounded slope of a Twenties-inspired shoulder. Dramatic arcs of feathers floated across an ivory goddess gown or on patterned skirts worn with a striped blouse with voluptuous sleeves. Van Noten played with fabric blocking throughout: a languid, ultra-chic dress in two shades of green with black, worn with a multicolored boa: an accordion of gold pleats inset into a printed dress. As for the prints, inspired by Art Brut, Van Noten kept them organic, all drawn by hand in his studio. And if one or two looks overwhelmed (a blue and-silvery-gray pantsuit in a mega pattern), the intricacy of most intrigued. The pattern of one coat was so detailed and specific that the piece will be produced in one size only. Yet not all was surface pizzazz; a black coat and jacket fastened with feathered brooches worked a gorgeous simplicity.
Van Noten’s only message here was to make beautiful clothes for the women he admires and whom his work serves. He sent it loud and clear.