Dries Van Noten Autumn/Winter 2021/22 Paris Fashion Week
A New Day, a New Dawn: Dries Van Noten’s Dancers Get Up Close and Personal with a Collection that’s as Intellectual as it is Visceral.
Image and Video Credit: Dries Van Noten
In 2005 the New York Times described inimitable Belgian designer Dries Van Noten as ‘one of fashion’s most cerebral designers. They were stating the obvious, really. Over the years I have religiously made the pilgrimage to this designer’s Antwerp flagship to experience the eponymous Dries vibe and I’m certainly not alone in my adulation of this man’s unsurpassed talents – there are Dries ‘groupies’ from Tokyo to Toronto, Cape Town to Cairo, who revere this designer with the uncanny forte of pre-empting exactly what we’ll be craving next in our fashion appetites well before we register it ourselves. To, season after season, give us clothes we want to not only put at the top of our wish lists, but must have, and hold, and touch, and feel, and wear, and covet, and talk about, and introduce to all the other Dries friends in our wardrobes, is the superpower of Dries Van Noten.
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For a designer who has on many occasions confessed that the way he presents his collection on a physical catwalk has always been factored into his creative process, Dries Van Noten made a pivotal turnabout under the circumstances and changed direction with no fuss (thankfully not in the way he designs, phew, but in the way he perceives future shows). He reportedly added that the opportunity to show clothes in movement on a range of different shapes and in different situations (not to mention the invaluable input of a genius filmmaker – in this case Casper Sejersen) is the way forward.
To Massive Attack’s hauntingly sensual and uncannily appropriate anthem ‘Angel’ (1998) dancers poignantly portrayed (and it seemed very, very real) the agonizing reality of our lives over the past year, filled with anxiety, frustration, stress, separation, loss, uncertainty, desire and longing. This dramatic performance was staged in one of Antwerp’s underground art venues with dancers all dressed up – in a spectrum that ranged from electric blue suits to red maribou feathers – (sadly, currently) with nowhere to go.
Attempting to describe the pieces in this collection in words is like trying to capture, in a few words, the essence of the Milky Way in a jetblack sky from a vantage point in the desert. This kind of creativity needs experienced with all the senses – or at the very least seen up close and touched. In attempting to describe, I can report that coats, suits and jackets and shirts were generously proportioned and classic, and most certainly not without the signature Dries Van Noten touches: a striking red floral design decorated part of a classic grey-blue coat, a strip of pillarbox red maribou feathers embellished the sleeves of a top, an oversized classic white shirt was paired with a bright red glove and a mauve coat was lavishly adorned with an asymmetrical chiffon surface print.
Dries van Noten’s deep understanding of colour, his inspired colour choices and wondrous colour combinations are always worth a mention. In a collection that focused on primary colours – blues, reds and some greens with the usual neutrals in between – there were some shades and combinations that made one gasp for breath: an intense poison green satin coat, an electric blue jacket and matching stretch boots, a salmon and pillar box red kaftan, a baby pink and fawn draped silk skirt and top ensemble, the softest grey and pink of a maribou top and bag … the list is endless.
In a nutshell this Autumn/Winter 2021/22 Dries Van Noten collection was about colour, texture and form. Oh, and about the beauty of the otherworldly prints, the exquisiteness of the dyed fabric shades, the creativity of the surface prints, the glamour of sequins, the seductiveness of embroidery, the shear genius of the asymmetrical draping and … and …
In other words, it was just another Dries Van Noten show.
As I was watching the show unfold it occurred to me that ‘old’ treasures I’ve acquired decades ago would sit beautifully beside any of the ‘new’ treasures featured in this 2020/21 collection. This is the brilliance of a mastermind – creating timeless, ageless and intelligent pieces with immense longevity, everlasting freshness and enduring appeal. Dries’ pieces seem to do something special for every woman, and perhaps that’s the very secret of his success and the thing that keeps us gagging for more: the secret conviction that each piece has actually been designed with us – and no one else – in mind.