Paris – In the latest collection from Dries Van Noten, he staged an artistic military maneuver for the first major show of Paris fashion week.
Held Wednesday, March 3, in the City Hall of Paris, the show was a near perfect distillation of this designer's key strengths - cerebral cutting, ethnic fantasy and arty joie de vivre. And, yet it was more than that; a clever evocation of what women should, and will, be wearing this coming fall.
"1950s and '60s cuts, and then a dose of rebellion," was Van Noten's description of this fall 2010 women's ready-to-wear collection, which mimicked and deconstructed the sort of fashion codes one associates with the high-end couture of a half-century ago.
This meant a forgiving silhouette with skirts that flared at a 30-degree angle below the waist, while dresses gently expanded around the hips thanks to the most adroit gathering and ruching.
Staged in a magnificently grand hall replete with a dozen massive chandeliers under frescoes of heroines in the midst of an Arcadian revolt, the collection marched into military mode: cool black parka dresses with Indian bead collar finish or supremely stylish trench coats, boasting contrasting arms of regimental bullion detailing.
Van Noten is also a great self-editor, so his fatigue jodhpurs with zips down the back of the calf were deceptively well cut, as were his bold khaki great coats, finished with big cat print scarves.
Other stand outs included a sensationally beautiful silver metal bead sheath, a splendid black denim flight jacket with hussar's sleeves and a dreamlike black cocktail with black fantasy garden embroidery and corporal's shirt sleeves. Smartly avoiding any sense of repetition, Van Noten wowed at the end with a great platoon of duchesses satin dresses, with abstract painterly flowers and daubs of color.
This designer has gone back and forth in recent seasons between his ethnic, print driven early days and his mature, more formal lady-like tailoring. This collection was an excellent synthesis of both elements, and right in sync with the current cult of posh militarism so fashionable today.
Best of all, it was clear that though Van Noten was completely immersed in a major trend like military, he also reinvented it on his own terms with a fresh sense of panache and poise.