“A flamboyant woman. She dares, she wears,” Dries Van Noten observed backstage.
Indeed she does. Even by the standard of Van Noten’s intensely decorative aesthetic, a powerful exuberance permeated the spring collection the designer showed to the dissonant strains of a live performance by the string quartet Balanescu.
In fact, dissonance prevailed as Van Noten crossed his signature elegantly tailored bohemianism with a wry sensuality that both mocked and embraced commonly held notions of sexy dressing. And oh, yes, retro! — just a dash and deftly applied — in the models’ Forties rolled hair, the occasional strong shoulder, constructed Fifties bras.
Color and pattern lie at the core of Van Noten’s work, and he works voraciously each season to develop new ways to experience both. This time, he set a two-color limit per pattern, the graphic precision in variations from shocking to muted, with an emphasis on high-sheen brocades and jacquards. And if some veered toward upholstery-ville, Van Noten handled their heft expertly, whether in mannish jackets and coats or more surprisingly, in a bustier cocktail dress in gold and white.
But then, Van Noten is not one for literal interpretation. Thus silhouettes sprung from the annals of traditional ladified dressing — three-quarter-sleeved carcoat; almost prim shirt-and-full-skirt combo — took on antithetical edge with tattoo gloves; ditto vibrant, crystal-encrusted bras worn over body-art T-shirts. Van Noten also showed not a gentle side per se, but gentle elements incorporated into his woman’s notice-me attitude: filmy, frothy veilings layered with lingerie and tailoring.
The onslaught of color, pattern and audacity both jolted and mesmerized. More than beautiful, which it was, it felt inventive, pushing classic tropes onto new ground with chic surety.