In Milan, Tomas Maier name-checked Nureyev and Baryshnikov. Earlier today, Rick Owens cited Nijinsky. Then, tonight, it turned out the Gothic letter R inserted in Dries Van Noten's invitation stood for Rudolf. Nureyev again. Three times makes a trend—and makes sense. In a season where workout-wear has been elevated to the heights of male fashion, ballet adds some aesthetic to the athletic. But that's not why Van Noten did it. "I'd had enough of rock and a cool attitude," he said post-show. "It was time for something completely different. I wanted a sensual man." In the service of whom, he showed bared torsos, scooped necks, blousy shirts, and baggy shorts. Unitards and knit waistbands were the dancer's onstage uniform. Offstage, it was silken robes for Rudi's after-hours lounging. That unstructured flou infected oversize, double-breasted tailoring that was as fluid as pajamas. Illustrator Richard Haines contributed a line drawing of a naked male dancer that was used throughout, and there was an embroidered jacket that could have been borrowed from one of Nureyev's more extravagant performances.
Van Noten's feeling that it was time for a change was reflected on his catwalk. He was clearly energized by his new direction. Others weren't so sure, but, given that the designer was reacting against what he's been showing recently—which includes the wondrous extravagance of his exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris—perhaps no one should be surprised by the relative austerity of this collection. Van Noten researched ballet costumes thoroughly, learning about bodies sitting, standing, and in motion. That's where the main decorative element came from: a harness, often bullion-embroidered, which wrapped one shoulder and added a fetishistic flourish. It was repeated often. The soundtrack also thrived on repetition. It was written by Belgian composers Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch in the early eighties to accompany Rosas Danst Rosas, a famous dance piece by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, whom Van Noten has collaborated with. It struck one chord over and over, which ultimately made it the perfect accompaniment for the clothes.