In a time that hails modesty, Dries Van Noten is something of a revolutionary. And it is not without irony that Paris – the historical birthplace of anti-opulence and pro-reticence – should be the scene of his majestic rebellion. Perhaps this irony wasn’t lost on the designer when he chose a building as unassuming as the barren Halle Freyssinet to build a mammoth set of gilded espaliers, the palatial magnificence of which could easily have equalled a modern-day Versailles. Add to this the image and sound of Colin Greenwood of Radiohead playing a live score of bass notes on the runway, and the royal court of Dries Van Noten was in session.
It was the second instalment of the designer’s golden moment; a continuation of his men’s collection, which drew upon the historical fabric discoveries Van Noten has made in the archives of the Les Art Decoratif where he’s currently preparing for an exhibition delineating his sources of inspiration, launching in January 2014. But whereas the grandeur of his men’s collection for the most part materialised in sumptuous antique floral prints, it was in his devastatingly beautiful – not to mention plentiful – use of gold that Van Noten’s Spring/Summer 2014 women’s collection reached its regal zenith.
'I wanted to do really precious things,' he said backstage. 'A lot of gold, a lot of lace, a lot of ruffles.' Van Noten’s words could be the wish list of an eighteenth century empress, but while there was certainly a fabulous splendour to the collection, it never became parodic or costumey. Shiny, shiny gold ruffles clung to a simple white dress like it was the most natural thing in the world. Light-as-feathers ruffles in black and opulent red swayed softly in a skirt. A dress in heavy gold lace glistened like a modern suit of armour. Dragon fly embellishments ornamented a floral print top, their delicate structures purling with every step the model took. But in all the dreamy lavishness there was also a sense of sophisticated sexiness to the collection; the kind you’d find a posh Parisian salon, which Van Noten accredited to Loulou de la Falaise and her likes. As a glimpse into the designer’s world, the show offered a type of awe-inspiring exquisiteness, which could only be described as magic. With all these Feuillantine displays of excess, however, Monsieur better watch out for the minimalists – don’t forget what they did to poor Marie-Antoinette. But when told backstage that his collection was more than a little majestic, Van Noten simply grinned, 'Then there was enough gold, I would say.'