Dries van Note returns to Paris. He is still the master of controlled sumptuousness, even in black
We can’t remember when Dries van Noten showed this much black on the runway—17 looks in total inkiness (this season, we have been doing a lot of counting ). The not-colourful opening set, however, isn’t a mournful expression of something plaguing the world. Mr van Noten has not shown in Paris IRL for more than two years, communicating digitally in ways that were not necessarily illustrative of his predilection for the exuberant (if not stylistically, at least florally). This joyous return could perhaps be seen in the clothes, but rather than jump right into the 花浴 (huayu or floral bath), he chose to begin with those blacks that have between them the soft tailoring that Mr van Noten is partial to and the sculptural assymetry that he has shown to be adept at, allowing the raven sophistication to segue into spring-appropriate pastels before bursting into the summer flowers—print on print, too—that he is known for.
The show, set in a what looks like a disused space, opens to a soundtrack of a knocking beat that could have been produced by the muyu (木鱼) or wooden fish, the woodblocks used in Chinese temples to produce a hypnotic cadence that accompanies the reciting of Buddhist text. But, here, it is digitised and on reverb. The somewhat bleak beat, accompanied by the clacking of the models’ heels, soon builds into an urgent pulsation that crescendoes to the familiar refrain of Blondie’s Heart of Glass over an unfamiliar mix, which vaguely reminds us of Heart ov Glass, the remake by British electronica act Product.01 and remixed by the German techno producer Justus Köhncke. The tribal/festive percussive mix of electro and breaks is attuned to Mr van Noten’s trippy blend of rosettes and ruffles, blooms and more blooms. In a word (which we do not often use): delightful.
With Dries van Noten, the output is always a sensorial win. With the exception of some jewellery, there is no need for glittery ornamentation to make any of the outfits stand out or speak, even in the eveningwear. One loose-fitting, but still shapely jacket is bunched up in the front and secured by pins. A dramatic black top—worn with shorts!—is an asymmetric heave that looks like a fichu fluffed up. On a skirt, plissé swathes draw together in the front and cascade as an off-centre bustle. Pleated medallions sit atop gathered tiers in free-flow abandon on a top. Elsewhere, ruffles curve around the body and end on the hem, or meander and then become rosettes—and nothing flamenco about them. There are openwork knitwear gilets that could have been handicraft macrame bags repurposed. When it comes to the florals, there are more permutations that what you’d find in nature; the pairings and the layering, crumbly or crushed, sometime recall those from past collections, but no less arresting.
It is an uplifting collection even with the darkness of the opening set. Some people think that Mr van Noten’s clothes are typically not immediately joyous. While he is not inclined to go with spring-break ardour, as craft precedes frills, we can’t begrudge the palpable positivity of his re-entry to the Paris show season. Few designers today offer desirable clothes that are more than what they seem, that can boast designs that go along synergistically with dressmaking. Or, take what would be flowers-for-spring cliché to fields of desirable artistry. As before, these are clothes to wear and keep. And to wear again.
Screen shots (top) and photos: Dries van Noten