As the audience groped its way into a dark basement, it feared the worst. Could Dries still be in his somber winter fugue? No: After the first girl walked out in a flowered halter and a pair of contrasting pants, the runway gradually came alive with color, pattern, and easy shapes, and an almost audible sigh of relief ran through the room. This was Van Noten back on home ground, taking summer's license to run wild with florals while also capturing everything his devotees adore about the arty/ethnic cast of his clothes. "I worked on printing several different patterns on one piece of material," he explained, "so that you can end up wearing four or five prints in just a couple of pieces."
It takes a particular talent to mix color and print without making things too busy to deal with. Always essentially a reality-based designer, Van Noten made it all seem simpleand even, for him, a touch chic. He dealt out a kaleidoscope of painterly and fifties-derived florals and abstract leafy strokes in greens, blues, yellows, and saffrons. Deep bands of contrasting color turned up in the hems and yokes of dresses, classic scarf prints were transformed into silk pants, and little cuffed linen shorts came printed with tiny fifties flowers. The total impression was fresh but also, in the end, surprisingly sophisticated. The high-heeled shoesfabric pumps and vertiginous multi-patchworked sandalstook the collection a distinct step away from boho hippie on holiday and into the zone of city dressing. And where Van Noten deployed lashings of semiprecious-stone necklaces and his signature metallic Indian embroidery, it suddenly became an inspiring vision of alternative luxe for day.