Dries Van Noten showed his new collection on the eve of the opening of his exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, two years in the making and promising to offer insights into a living designer's mind the likes of which we've never before been privy to. The experience of putting the exhibition together has filtered into Van Noten's past few presentations: delving into the museum's archives, reflecting on his own past, mulching centuries together. So there were two routes he could have gone today—consolidate that rearview mirror, or make the past another country and resolutely head off down the highway ahead.
In the end, it was hard to tell exactly which of those options the designer had adopted. There were so many Van Noten signatures on
display—silvery flora, man-styled coats and trousers, a thirties-style languor, a shimmer of glam rock, the overall sense that we were looking at the wardrobe of one of life's decadent adventuresses. On the other hand, the show introduced us to a Van Noten we'd never seen before: Dries the Ibizan Psychonaut.
A museum exhibition dedicated to one's own work is so fearfully grown-up. What better way to set a new course than to reconnect with a delirious flicker of one's own misspent past. And what better flicker than rave culture!
Here was a gray flannel coat in keeping with the occasional man-styled sobriety of collections past (admittedly, it was slightly unhinged with a diagonal zip and had been slapped with the psyche graphic of a flier for Space, Ibiza's legendary all-dayer). Such optic motifs spiraled throughout the lineup in rave tees and rave sweats. And they were paired with trippy florals and 3-D corsages that lurked luridly on shoulders. But Van Noten didn't leave it there. He made a typically elevated connection with the work of op art's most famous practitioner, Bridget Riley, so that just about everything on show featured a psychedelic swirl of some kind. In the same spirit, he took the MA-1 jacket beloved of proto-ravers and cut it out of orange duchesse satin. A regular traffic light of a piece, which signposted just how brilliantly deft Van Noten has become at amalgamating high and low references in his collections.
Van Noten took his modest navy-clad bow as usual at show's end, but he was right on the heels of a black gown with a three-dimensional paint job and a coil of hazmat-orange lilies. Still waters run no deeper than they do with this one.