Dries’ Conceptional Magna Patchwork

February 29, 2012
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It’s the true mark of an important designer that he can take a concept, translate it into beautiful clothes and then see them influence the way women dress all over the world. Which is what will happen with the latest collection from Dries Van Noten, a magna print meditation and posh battlefield chic aesthetic that won the designer an enormous cheer in his show in Paris on Wednesday, Feb. 29.

Van Noten has been staging his women’s shows for the past several seasons in Paris’ baroque City Hall, though this fall 2012 collection looked like the one most suitable for this location. For the very mix of strict neo-classical fluted columns and curly gilded decoration was echoed by the spiraling designs on the clothes.

Dries has been very good lately at dipping into all sorts of different cultural inputs. Where his February men’s collection was based on Dutch artist Gijs Frieling or his last women’s show on photographs by young artist James Reeve, today he went in a completely opposite direction for fall 2012. The designer looked at classic Asian dress. He was even photographed in a Korean pink silk coat for a backstage TV interview, and went about deconstructing a pattern of print from the two dimensional into the three-dimensional. This meant that classic sleeves were aligned as print on the center of the body to give the collection a fresh spin and unexpected twist.

He also teamed up with Victoria & Albert Museum in London, tapping into their Oriental costume archives with brilliant results. Clearly, Van Noten always likes to balance his mighty inspirations with street wear and his military khakis grounded the colorful print party on his dresses and coats.

It all felt very new, in particular the officer’s ceremonial coats, whose bullion insignia were reimagined as cranes flying toward the heavens. There was a particularly elegant turquoise finale where a group of the kimono prints looked like Escher architectural drawings, that brought an appreciative rumble of sighs from the audience, perched on bleachers in the historic setting.

In terms of silhouette, however, Van Noten cleaves a little too much to the restrained. He clearly finds short dresses and exposed flesh a little vulgar, so the collection did miss more adventure in its cutting. Where just above the knee is the skirt length throughout all the major shows in Europe this month, he finished half way down the skin. An oddity when he wraps his women in military coats that the designer does not feel they are tough enough to go out in public in a short skirt.

That said, this was an impressive fashion statement by a designer who is very much setting the stylistic agenda today

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