When one show dulls the senses, another awakens them. Thank heavens for Dries Van Noten
If fashion is about dreams, imagine this one: the ghost of Paul Poiret haunts, and a phantom collection emerges. It is styled by another ghost, that of Anna Piaggi. Art deco florals swirls amid inner-city checks. When you’re awaken, the clothes are those of Dries Van Noten’s spectacular autumn/winter 2020 show. If there is a dream that we do not want to wake up from, it is this—a dream that could keep us away from a ‘reality’ of “When Women Strike the World Stops”. In the context of fashion, we do prefer When Women Look Striking, the World Stops.
And what striking women at Dries Van Noten. But apparently we were in the wrong dream. Or, wrong era. As Mr Van Noten told the media, his inspiration came from Eighties’ party girls (also the gritty/seductive song by Michelle Gurevich that soundtracks the show), in particular those who frequented The Mud Club and Camden Palace in London. People then did indeed dress up to go clubbing (unlike these days, when any ratty old singlet and shorts will do), and some clubs admit by fashion, which in those days, did not necessarily mean designer, although the young, post-punk crowd was partial to anything put out by Vivienne Westwood and Malcom McClaren through Sex, Seditionaries, and later, Worlds End.
Back to Dries Van Noten! Striking, too—and remarkable—is the Sam McKnight hair, all slicked and spot-coloured, which looked like they share the same pigments as scarlet macaws, as well as the Inge Grognard makeup, which is evocative of Serge Luten’s dramatic work with Shiseido in the Eighties, and, simultaneously, projecting the femme fatales of Tamara de Lempicka. Oh, we are in the wrong era again! The thing for us is, this is Mr Van Noten’s Gilded Age, to borrow Mark Twain’s phrase, an afterglow from last season’s wondrous collaboration with Christian Lacroix, the non-practising couturier still on everyone’s mind.
We have never described, in eight years of SOTD, a collection as gorgeous. But that was what came to our mind again and again, and again. From the first look, the plaid biker jacket teamed with granny cardigan and marabou skirt, to the last, a sleek shirt-and-long-skirt combo, with sleeves pushed up to reveal opera gloves, we saw a procession of unceasing gorgeousness, in colour, in print, and in texture. Mr Van Noten is a master mixologist who seems even more sure-footed in bringing together the disparate after his outing with Mr Lacroix. Rare is opulence this intoxicating.
Yet, it is not all swirling florals and lush feathers in the haute sphere. If you looks closely, there are elements of grunge (that sometimes dreaded, sometimes adored aesthetic that had once tanked the career of a particular designer). Glamourous grunge? That biker jacket with the marabou skirt, checked shirt tied around the waist, floral camo trench over floral denim jumpsuit (with the upper also similarly tied)—they offer a seductive slouchiness, but not sacrificing the effect of the dressed-up or the polished façade that might, in truth, conceal a messy divorce or adultery, or a court case against sexually predatory behaviors.
And there are not just the traditional haute fabrics, such as silk and velvet, but also those that are especially suited to plaids—poplin; stand outs being the shadow check in that almost glowing blue and, conversely, the strange dusty versions, recalling those that you might find as shirts in the thrifts stores of Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa. Casual can walk hand in hand with glam. Other designers showed plaids and kindred checks too, but none yet, this season, have yielded the sum of such magnificence.
And if you look even closer, you’d see that, while the clothes look like only special occasions would do them justice, they are, in fact, composed of wearable pieces and separates. The beauty—and desirability—is in the fact that they don’t look totally accessible. It is possible that there are already best-sellers in the making: the full-length day dresses, the slouchy pants and their leather cousins, and those Bowie-esque boots (Marc Jacobs could be hyperventilating). And—we keep coming back to them—that biker jacket and the skirt.
As the show progresses, Ms Gurevich sings, in the near-masculine voice of hers, “It doesn’t matter what you create if you have no fun”. This does not, of course, reflect the output of Mr Van Noten. He was reported to have later told well-wishers back stage that the collection was “about nightlife, about going out, enjoying life, having fun”—the last, increasingly, is something missing in much of today’s make-money-for-the-master runways. Still, some shows just take your breath away. Dries Van Noten’s this season is one of them.
Photos: Dries Van Noten