Dries Van Noten returned to another parking garage for his fall men’s show, and on each level guests encountered a shopping cart full of chilled Stella Artois and an experimental electronic musician producing fizzing, burbling or buzzing noises.
Once up all the ramps, and then a couple of flights of stairs, guests finally alighted on the show-space proper: a standing-only affair with a drum kit on one stage and stacks of synthesizers on the other.
Belgian musicians Lander & Adriaan, specialists in what the show notes called “sophisti-rave,” took their positions and proceeded to coax an impressive amount of sophisti-rave from those few instruments, adding a pulse-pounding electricity to the show.
“The energy and self-expression of rave parties in the ‘90s, but mixed with beautiful surreal elements of nature” was how Van Noten summed up the collection backstage.
His starting point was a book he read last summer about Alexander von Humboldt, a German geographer, naturalist and explorer born in 1769 and the man credited with having invented the concept of ecology.
Van Noten etched both themes with restraint: The rave vibe was conveyed mainly by roomy pants festooned with pockets and straps; the nature theme via botanical prints and motifs — here green shoots forking off across cots and pants, there an eagle caught in flight on a creamy crewneck sweater.
Occasionally the two narratives converged beautifully, as in a safari shirt embroidered with gold and silver garlands, or a silky souvenir jacket with a dizzying print of diving birds and exotic blooms.
But mostly this show exalted Van Noten’s impressive range as a designer. With its strong shoulders and raised waists, the tailoring had a subtle retro allure and a masculine swagger. Silhouettes were either big on top and narrow on top or vice versa.
As a colorist and print purveyor, Van Noten has few peers, here blending dusty colors and complex patterns and textures in ways most pleasing to the eye.
If anything gave a jolt, it was the number 23 writ huge on a mesh football jersey and on roomy track pants. Was the designer winking to a milestone in his long fashion career, or winking to his favorite sports hero, perhaps?
Der — it was simply a reference to the 2023 season and some looks had 24 on the back, Van Noten clarified.
“We keep it simple,” he said with a yelp of laughter.