After a June that has left Europe's fashion capitals sodden, Dries Van Noten's Spring-Summer 2012 collection had him looking like a prophet. Almost everything was waterproof. Yep, Dries is ready for The Flood when it comes. Of course, that's sheer coincidence. Van Noten insisted that what he really had in mind were the clothes men wear for outdoor pursuits like fishing, riding, and hunting. Still, the hint of dystopia cued the odd intensity of Van Noten's new menswear. Following Fall's elegant, decadent tour de force, the designer opted once more for the dark side: Midnight blue and burgundy were the dominant tones, shot through with industrial brights. The starkness of that contrast played out in the various tensions established by the collection: structure vs softness, real vs synthetic, tradition vs technology.
The clothes gleamed. In one case—silk coveralls layered with a nylon parka and a wool-polyester jacket—there were three different shines. The fact that the sheen came as often from man-made fabric as silk was scarcely the traditionally opulent effect that might once have been expected from Van Noten, but there was still a curious hint of luxury in the almost-delicacy of a navy parka in the lightest nylon known to man. Same with a yellow parka, plastic inside, nylon on the outside, and decorated by the black bonding tape that would normally have been inside. "It's my way of doing technical details as decoration," Van Noten explained. He'd also given himself a little kick by using grosgrain ribbon to mimic bonding tape.
Fantasy footnote: If Fall's collection was a refraction of David Bowie in the Thin White Duke persona that he adopted to promote his Station to Station album, this new collection with its parkas over narrow pants and sandals could almost be Van Noten's nod to Low, Bowie's follow-up. What an endlessly renewable style resource that Bowie guy is.