Dries Van Noten and MC Hammer are the unlikeliest combo since…well, you might have to go all the way back to Gene Simmons and Cher. But with this new collection, there was a definite sense of the designer trying to move out of his comfort zone—and eighties hip-hop is where he ended up. Of course, Dries, like Miuccia Prada, is able to sublimate the most arcane influences, so Hammer's pants were merely hinted at in multipleated trousers with maxi-volume through the thigh. Nevertheless, change was unmistakably in the air.

Why this upheaval in the formerly orderly world of Van Noten? Perhaps it began with the fact that the École des Beaux-Arts, venue for many a triumph over the years, is under renovation for the foreseeable future. And when one change comes, why not let them all come? Thus, Dries found himself using fabrics (polyester!) and shapes (big!) he'd never used before. And from there, it probably seemed quite logical to extend the unfamiliarity into realms of inspiration that were equally alien, i.e., black music of the eighties. As previously acknowledged, there was nothing that was mortifyingly incongruous here. In fact, Dries's take on proto-bling basically extended no farther than Versace-like printed silks and gold and silver footwear (rather glamorous, actually). But the conceptual impact of the influence was significant. Dries established a tension between rough and smooth, wild and tame by combining his signature tailored elegance with gauzy, asymmetrical knitwear. The result suggested a designer feeling his way to somewhere he hasn't been before. The signs are promising.