I did something new at this fashion show. I didn't take any notes. (I'm always taking notes.) And boy, was I pleased that I was able to just sit there and take in the atmosphere of such a special show. Dries Van Noten, an original member of the Antwerp Six, is this season celebrating his 100th show. A milestone he says he doubts will happen again. Cripes! Can't all fashion greats live forever?
Sat in the Bercy Stadium, with every single guest with a front row fold away wooden seat, the models walked on a never-ending winding runway covered in white felt. Emblematic of the ultimate starting point – a blank sheet of paper - the long corridors of runway also brought to mind the creative blank margin still left to explore. The collage-style soundtrack was both abstract and epic. One amusing moment saw attendees whip round - mid show - in response to the sound of a dog barking behind them. Only to realise this was part of the showmusic. The dog's bark then gave way to the rousing score of Hong Kong's cinematic masterpiece 2046.
It was clear that today's show was not just about clothes but also about emotion. Rather than the girls being told to look straight ahead and act like mannequins, they were encouraged by the designer to look around the room - to smile, to make eye contact, and interact with the audience. These weren't models, these were women. They were intelligent women. They were women who had children - (there were a couple of babes in arms backstage.) A stellar cast aside (with a request for some diverse new faces please), it wasn't just the models that were returning to the house for maybe the second, third, fourth, 10th time, the prints that were featured within the collection were also dear old friends to the designer. The design house had generously put together a personalised book for each guest, which featured some of the most iconic prints within the Dries Van Noten archives. Some of these prints were not just brought back for this collection, but the designer explained backstage how secondary graphic prints were placed on top of the original archive print to re-enliven them. Each original print was identified in the book by the season that it was originally shown in. They went back to S/S 94. The opening look comprised of Kristina de Coninck in a silk coat in an updated print from S/S 06. There was a suit made up in a revised print from S/S 00 and a pretty pale peach floral tea dress blossomed in a chintzy print from S/S 94. Van Noten said he didn't want the collection to be about the past but that he wanted it to be DVN DNA, saying: 'With this collection, we took it one step further. I didn’t want it to be a nostalgic collection. We went for prints that we liked and then we overlaid them with graphic prints that made them very contemporary.'
In the hands of such an artist a two tone shot metallic suit looks fit for a gallery owner, walking through the streets of New York or Tokyo. Whilst other pieces just looked super comfortable. Van Noten says the collection was 'about strong women. Women who have an opinion – who are there to put clothes together that don’t usually go together.' Many of the shapes were 'mannish.' Oversized boxy arms and cocoon shapes also strongly featured. Model Iris Strubegger chatted backstage about how her patchwork quilt coat just felt so comforting and lovely to wear. She also spoke about how emotional it was to walk in the show today. Almost all of the women wore flats. And those that didn't wore crystal-ball-like cut glass heels. Who knows what we can predict for the future, but all we can know right now is that in this season – A/W 17 - we have witnessed not only the work of a design great but a family reunion, a heartfelt feeling, and a legacy.