When the world doesn’t make any sense, Dries van Noten’s advice is that we dive deeper into a world of fabulousness. The optimism within this collection was a surreal and self-initiated bid to do away with the madness of this world – to host our own party in our minds and hearts. The collection opened with sparkles dancing on a tulle slip and matching silver glitter on the lip. Backstage the designer explained ‘We always say that fashion is sometimes a reflection of what is happening in the world. But at the moment such strange things are happening, so let’s escape it.’ One of Dries Van Noten’s most prettiest collections to date, there was an all knowingness here to this glamour. Van Noten spoke of his woman’s motto being 'Cocktails at five? Why not? She knows the rules to break the rules.' The print game at this label went up a notch this season. Printed foulard scarves created wrap around dresses, skirts and belted shifts. This design house is a world away from Emilio Pucci and Hermes in sensibility, yet Van Noten’s contemporary print credentials were placed head to head with these brands of old who 'own' the item. Despite this collection feeling almost Italian in its yacht-ready glamour, what Van Noten was angling for was the American jet set era of the fifties and sixties. He referenced the American photographers Slim Aarons and Tina Barney, who both photographed poolside socialites and celebrities in Palm Springs and Palm Beach, and the LA set designer Tony Duquette.
Dries Van Noten is one of the great postmodern masters of fashion, and this was a delicious pastiche of dream culture, desire and Americana. It was also utterly modern. The prints, the boots, the earrings – call me psychic but everyone at the show pretty much wanted everything. Knee high boots were both psychedelic 'down the rabbit hole' and Penelope Pitstop pretty – and they matched or clashed with everything. Glitter sandals and lines of silver glitter worn in the parting of models' hair - along with Gustav Klimt gold flecked printed gowns – were counterbalanced by the lightness of silk and tulle. The palette was very acidic and neon in places, yet strangely mixed with pastels, mauve, plum, tea and lilac.
One of the highlights of the collection was a surrealist lip print that ominously hovered as a placement print, Mae West style. Print and jacquards were ever important this season. For S/S 18, Van Noten spoke about his ongoing love for a painting by Pablo Picasso called Femmes à leur toilette. Completely collaged, and created without pen or pencil, it is created out of pieces of printed wallpaper Picasso happened to find and like. Inspired by this objet trouvé style of eclectic collaging, Van Noten said he took 'wallpaper patterns from the twenties and fourties, some wild things from the sixties and a bit of the eighties.' This led the designer to think about the foulard scarf as an objet trouvé, in that it is an item that is so layered with meaning – one of the associations being that is an accessory synonymous with the seventies/eighties bourgeoisie. By working not only with it as a graphic, but as a form of construction, Van Noten said he wanted the scarves to look like 'they had been blown on the woman, almost like a magic way of sticking on a skirt.' The way that the skirts jutted out and on to the side of the models made the looks appear almost 2D - and hence Picasso’s unexpected line, within both sculpture and painting, was also present too. The phrase 'sober and drunk' was used to describe some of the sharp contrasts in the collection. Light, breezy, and boudoir like, these contrasts came through via the layering of apricot mesh over Harris tweeds. It seemed the giddiness of intelligent-girly was being layered here over the foundations of traditional tailoring. Rather than drowning our sorrows, this collection encouraged us to 'drown our delights' with Dries.