Dries Van Noten sent the invite to his S/S 2011 collection indecipherably embossed into a slice of hologram. It sparkled very prettily at times, but in practical terms, it didn't really work. That is actually an apt metaphor for his latest offering - a show that seemed to have all the right Dries Van Noten signatures, but which in reality didn't quite gel.
The opalescent, iridescent colour of the hologram invite gave us a key into Van Noten's palette - similarly filled with rather off contrasts of silver, peachy-apricot and lilac shot through with lots of white. If that sounds space-age, it wasn't - Van Noten was back on the homespun vibe he does so well, with easy, blowsy peasant shapes, and even when he crafted hologram leather into a slender belt or a collarless sixties cardigan-jacket, it felt more classic Chanel than Courrèges.
Maybe inspired by those odd light plays across opalescence, Van Noten experimented with ombre and degrade finishes, working best when subtlest. A trench faded from dusky barely-there rose at the hem to palest white at shoulder as if bleached by acid rain was chic, subtle and second-glance worthy - its counterpart in white and searing magenta looked old-hat. That magenta popped up a few times, twinned with an insipid chartreuse in odd blossom prints on watery satin. Sliced into palazzo trousers and billowing kimono shapes, those prints looked vaguely Eastern, meets vaguely eighties, with a vague slant towards Twenties Hollywood.
That was the problem with a lot of this collection: it felt very vague, meandering across trends and ideas without ever properly settling on a fixed theme or focus. Those colours are a grand example, never really diving into spring's twin tastes for pastels or strident hues, but staying sullenly on the fence and mixing the two.
It will easily break apart, however, and there were some gems hidden - often well hidden - amongst the looks. The new jacket shape for Van Noten was big and boxy, sleeves grazing the end of the fingertips and shoulders slipping off the figure. That looked wonderful over slip dresses and bare legs, with the flat envelope clutches and high-heeled shoes in sickly, sugar sweet shades of parma violet or orange sherbet. It is easy to imagine those slipping onto retail floors the world over: but Van Noten is a designer cherished for the ability to create quirkily desirable clothes rather than grab-bag accessories. This season, sadly, the magic felt sorely lacking.