You hardly need to be Albert Einstein to appreciate what it is about Antwerp that makes the locals dream of the heady tropics. Dries Van Noten has never been to Hawaii, but judging by his latest collection, the Belgian designer sees it as the seductively diametric opposite of everything he grew up with. And what better theme for Europe's newly long, hot summers?
Van Noten's show, which began with militarily precise variations on a gray-and-white theme, ended in a luxuriant swathe of hibiscus prints. It was as though a new recruit had arrived at the base on Diamond Head and quickly fallen under the spell of the islands. From the outset, there were signs of exactly where the designer was headed: suits worn with flip-flops; pinstriped pants paired with a surf T; a jacket, also in pinstripes, shown with easy, self-belting shorts. Then came a pale-purple palm-frond print with pale-gray pinstripes, a hit of lilac in a pair of shorts, a sunrise-pink shirt, and tie-dyed trousers. After that, the florals flowed, culminating in a luxuriantly embroidered shirt.
With such universally appealing exotica playing the part of the more esoteric ethnic or artisanal details that customarily distinguish Van Noten's work, it seems likely that this collection will widen the designer's audience. After all, who hasn't fantasized about a beach hut on the Big Island?