Dries Van Noten's new collection had an entirely primal origin: Let there be light. He'd been looking at the work of Jef Verheyen, a Belgian painter who died in 1984 (and is therefore now on the brink of a major revival), and it made him ponder the ways he could transmute Verheyen's efforts to capture light. What the designer came up with was an ombré effect, which produced some striking pieces, especially when it intersected with the collection's other key reference point—Chinese ceramics. Art and ethnology have often been Van Noten's touchstones. Here, they made for a show whose serenity was a downbeat follow-up to the zis! boom! bop! of his sensationally shapely Fall show. Which doesn't mean that the ceramic florals—fading to a vestigial whisper on white silk satin pants—didn't have a haunting allure. Or that the pink-fading-to-blush jacket over a white pencil skirt didn't have a subtle shazam factor.
The core of the show, though, remained Van Noten's signature face-off between the dress codes of men and women. Backstage, he claimed the time was right to push the oversize option as a response to the skinny-minnies who've trolled catwalks of late. And, boy, did he ever promote the boyfriend-plus jacket, not to mention the plain cotton shirt, extended to a summery skirtlike proportion. When that piece was paired with an oversize cream tux jacket and a pair of pants coated with iridescent paillettes, it exemplified the easy essence of the collection.
As much as they caught the light he treasured, the paillettes spoke more of the faded glamour that Van Noten favors. In a jacket elaborately embroidered with flowers, he wanted them to feel decadent in the seventies way fashion is partial to at the moment. But they were also the quintessential opposite of the plain white, generously sized cotton pants that were a primary component of the show's opening section. Which is evidence enough that Dries Van Noten effortlessly straddles worlds.