If Belgian designer Tim Van Steenbergen were a movie director, he would probably be part of the Dogma group, radically challenging the norms of what we expect from the medium. Van Steenbergen cast his fall show, as he did last season, from dance and music schools in Antwerp. "No professional models!" he said proudly, just before the show kicked off, and they proceeded to walk the runway while singing their version of "Mad World," the theme from Donnie Darko. At the end of the show, the students lined up looking like some kind of Belgian conceptualist choir. There would probably be a huge demand for them on the alternative cabaret circuit.
These high jinks shouldn't detract from the seriousness with which van Steenbergen approaches the task in hand. (Sometimes too seriously: While not as wildly conceptual as some, he doesn't always grasp that fashion should flatter. There was an unpleasant moment when a patchwork velvet skirt that could have been worn by about three people hovered into view.) That misstep notwithstanding, Van Steenbergen is down with what a certain cool girl wants to wear. He understands that there is just as much room in her closet for crepe de chine as there is for washed, worn-looking cotton canvas. The faded navy parka with a voluminous back and deep ribbed cuffs was wonderful, ditto the wasp-waist jacket with leg-of-mutton sleeves and the washed silk bias-cut dresses in scarlet or chocolate.
On the runway, the way these clothes are put together can look like too much. But the trick with a designer like this is to cherry pick; the individual finds can be rather good.