A member of the Antwerp 6, Dries Van Noten has transcended the oft-pious intellect of the movement and has found himself in a happy groove. When one thinks of intelligent design, one might think of minimalism rather than maximalism – but this is firmly the latter. What Miuccia Prada is to Milan, Dries Van Noten is to Paris. Although, one could say he has an even greater sensitivity. His designs are increasingly rich and bounteous - with embellishments, rich fabrics, challenging silhouettes and ravishing colour. This season, Van Noten referred to the collection as ‘upper underground’. Like Schiaparelli or Jean Paul Gaultier - and all the other irreverent commentators past and present - he is playing with taste levels. This season he wanted to explore his ‘good eye’ via a tongue-in-cheek playfulness. One of the finest tastemakers in the industry, Dries Van Noten is having fun.
As the girls exited, it became apparent that the prints weren’t going to stay as prints for long. As they gradually became more embellished, they served to elevate his work to a new place. This wasn’t detached optimism, nor was it materialistic opulence – this was Dries, joyously diving down the rabbit hole. Almost psychedelic, asymmetric pelmets, tiered buttercup ruffles and full skirts still felt grounded in his DNA, via a classic baseline of nutmeg brown and navy. The show notes spoke about this collection being about infatuation, and there was even a mention of it being kinky and fearless. We saw this kinky fearlessness via the arrival of pop art girly, by way of fuchsia appliqué bras. (Prada and him are definitely in some sort of tête-à-tête). Later in the collection they were re-presented, embellished this time in a ferocious glitter. The materials throughout were so rich that they couldn’t help but create strong, opulent silhouettes. Thick metallic jacquard trousers took on a Krizia inspired Asian quality, bending in a stiff ornamental style. The way Van Noten blends decades is always phenomenal. This season, he mined the sartorial links between the fifties Teddy Boy and the Edwardian dandies who original inspired their look - as well as the enveloping eighties revival. Naturally Bowie couldn’t help but eventually appear within the collection. Never overt, Van Noten’s muses and eras are delivered to us via layered prisms.
When a designer is truly within their element, they are almost beyond reproach. We know who Dries Van Noten is. We trust him when he is being serious – and we trust him when he tells us it is time to enjoy ourselves.