A heavy brown curtain obscured the runway as Dries Van Noten's guests ambled to their seats. There were cakes and ginger tea on offer, and the proceedings had the feeling of a cocktail party, despite the early hour. When the partitions finally lifted, the audience was dazzled by what seemed like acres of delicate gold leaf (flecks of which could be found in the preshow treats) and a fall collection that was equal parts Eastern splendor and somber masculinity.
In less able hands, the combination could have proved jarring, or forced at the very least. But forced isn't Van Noten's style. Starting with the first looka boxy jacket, sashed high across the bust, and a colorful skirt edged with gold threadit was a happy marriage. From the East came tapestry fabrics, bullion embroidery, and a crescent-moon print in cream and cherry red; from a tailor's arsenal there were cummerbunds, trenches, and small, fitted jackets tucked into high-waisted, cropped pants thatin a season of suitsmanaged to be surprisingly original. If the tapered-hem sack dresses and cardigans with their arms tied across the torso seemed too familiar, they touched on the current trends for egg shapes and layering, without diverging much from Van Noten's own artsy vocabulary. All in all, this collection more than lived up to the designer's gold standard.