Over Zoom from his Antwerp office, Dries Van Noten caressed a swatch of fluffy, purple fake fur made of silk; showed off the iridescent surface of a mock ostrich skin made of neon pink nylon, and held aloft a square of floral jacquard, flipping it to show the reverse side dangling colorful fringe — the side he used for his fantastic spring collection.
Although the designer opted for a digital presentation — a film by Albert Moya and a photo series by Rafael Pavarotti — the fabrics grabbed one’s attention, original in their textures, and dazzling in their patterns and shading. What passed for a tweed on the screen — for a lean coat with fluted sleeves — was actually an intensely smocked print of a festival crowd, photographed from above.
Van Noten said he and his team had enough of simple, comfort clothes and yearned for something more festive, exuberant and dressy. And so they let loose with layered swags of colorful fringe, dense beading and a range of blurred and smudged prints in vivid, sometimes psychedelic colors. They also went to town with couture techniques and shapes, including balloon-shaped sleeves and cocooning coats.
Among his inspirations was the Holi festival in India, where people celebrate spring and new beginnings by dousing each other with pigments — yielding all kinds of watery, stain-like prints in bright shades. Van Noten also referenced some of his first women’s collections in the 1990s, when he used color with abandon.
While it’s harder to discern silhouettes in a film, especially when models are dancing under colored lights, one felt the energy, the luxury and the hand of one of fashion’s most gifted print proponents. All the unique textures added another layer of intrigue.
Van Noten said he has relished the opportunity to collaborate with filmmakers and photographers during the pandemic period, saying, “it’s a different way of being creative. It can add something.”
Still, we cross fingers for a live Dries runway show next season.