The party that Dries Van Noten threw to celebrate his 50th collection was a modest little affair: a chandelier-lit dinner for 500 at a cavernous factory on the outskirts of Paris. The guests were seated on either side of an ultralong table and were attended by 250 waiters (one to every two guestsnow that's service!) who set down the dishes in finely choreographed formation. Once the poisson en papillote had been cleared away, the table became the runway for the evening's main event: the showing of the spring collection.
It's hard to imagine that anything Van Noten could do would live up to all that fanfare. But it didand then some. What he showedvoluminous skirts, floral prints, Indian beading, crewelwork embroideries, white shirts, Bermuda shorts, flat shoesmight seem like a roll call of spring's most pertinent trends. But in fact, Van Noten has been doing all of this for yearsand this collection contained some of his most sophisticated work to date. Particularly stunning were the prints, which looked like old tapestries that had been screen-printed onto washed-cotton or crisp linen full skirts and sundresses.
But if the current fashion moment belongs to Van Noten, the real charm of this designer is that he probably couldn't care less about it. He has carved a niche for himself as someone who is committed to making clothes that are intimate and individual, and which don't come with a set of rigid rules about how they should be worn. Just how much of a personal connection he can make became clear at the end of the show, when trays were lowered from the ceiling, bearing a signed scrapbook of his last 50 collections for every member of the audience. Tucked inside each one was a Polaroid of the chandelier under which they sat. It all served to further illuminate what a rare talent he is.