The good thing about fashion now is that it's so broad and inclusive of self-expression that even when one edge is pushing at austerity chic, there are many other takes that are equally valid. One of them is Dries Van Noten's. On his runway, the argument for multi-printed, many-textured dressing is upheld with such grace he almost makes it look easy. It goes without saying that Van Noten has been the go-to designer for lovers of arty-ethnic textiles and undemanding shapes for years, but now something more interesting is happening. Lately, his collections have shaken off the feeling of being a specialist refuge for anti-mainstream devotees. What Van Noten is showingmore streamlined shapes, longer lengths, loopy knits, furs, high heelsis a reflection of what he calls "dressing 'up,' but in a modern way."
But back to those prints. Van Noten moved into marbleized printing techniques that added a beautiful distortion to traditional paisleys, and he replaced last season's giant painterly blooms with micro-flowers. These appeared on slim chiffon mid-calf sheaths, tunics, and at the end, two amazing floor-length fan-pleated dresses. Still, it was the things he did with solid color and knits that actually made the collection gel: blue-dyed fox chubbies, layered raw-edged chiffon dresses in mauve or dusty pink, and a couple of holey-stitch sweaters that happen to look perfectly in sync with the current avant-garde edge of fashion. Put together with multi-strapped, multicolored high-heeled sandals, the impression of grace in movement became poetically compelling. Even though there was, ultimately, a nod toward the ethnic embroidered vest and dress beloved by classic Dries customers, the success of this show was that it presented a shopping list that many more kinds of women might want to dip into for winter.