PARIS, France — On Saturday designer Dries Van Noten will unveil the first ever exhibition of his work to the public. The title of the exhibit is “Inspirations,” and the goal Van Noten set out is to bring the public into his world and let them discover his creative process.
Whenever an artist takes on the task of reflecting back on their body of work for something as momentous as a retrospective it is easy, and understandable, for them to fall back into concepts from the past when showing a current collection. Like a nostalgic 'This is your life' sartorial backwards glance at where they had come from and what made them who they are today. This was not the case for Van Noten.
The retrospective has invigorated the designer. Over the past year, both with his spring/summer 2014 womenswear collection and even more strikingly in his fall/winter 2014 menswear show in January, Van Noten has been as creatively innovative and experimental as he ever was. And Wednesday's womenswear show was no exception.
This season Van Noten combined the softness of flowers, one of his touchstone starting points, with the dynamism of Op-Art graphics. In the hands of a lesser designer, this combo would have been a recipe for disaster. With Van Noten, the result was a fashion hybrid that was able to be both risky and relatable.
Just the first exit, with a model wearing a grey coat that had pink lines undulating over it to move seamlessly along and around the garment, was a knockout in how it gave a sense of movement and energy to a classic wardrobe staple.
The whole show was upbeat in the way Van Noten would splice together panels of high octane floral prints with curving bands of colour, juxtapose sequins with matte fabric and create optical illusions through tricky patterned fabrics. The designer also introduced sporty zippers into the mix to heighten the graphic nature of the show even further. While at the same time he also included hand-painted, oversized, silver lilies onto tops and coats to bring just the right touch of an artist’s hand into all the symmetry.
All the strong geometry, from the applied spiral circles on t-shirts and wavy lined trousers, to the glossy grid patterned tunic and the three dimensional block motif sweaters, gave a real boost to Van Noten’s chosen roomy shapes.
And here, I would like to pause to give a quick shout-out to one boxy, squiggly, sequined top that somehow the designer was able to construct so that the green color of its paillette would zip along the body as the model moved. It was as if the garment had electricity pulsing though it. It was a masterful piece.
This collection was as bright and bold as the oversized lilies the designer pinned to the front of some of his ensembles. It was a treat to see a fully mature designer like Van Noten still having so much fun on the catwalk.