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Dries Van Noten’s Edgy Departure

Godfrey Deeny
June 25th, 2010 @ 00:13 AM - Paris

We got a very radical change of direction at Dries Van Noten – from chic restaurant and art gallery to funky street and late night club – in his latest men’s collection on Thursday night, June 24, the opening day of shows in the Paris runway season.

The change was significant as Van Noten is such an influential designer - his ideas tend to ripple through boutiques and men’s wardrobes worldwide. This collection will, too.

Van Noten has always been a bold designer when it comes to color, and this season was no exception. But where before he concentrated on reinventing ethnic prints, this season he went hyper abstract with a great series of white dress shirts, featuring blobs, stains and smears of inky backs, bloods and blues in a new dandy expressionism.

His other big idea was a risky use of bleached denim, originally a post hippie style, but a look more recently associated with impoverished Eastern Europe immigrants. However, in a brilliant twist, Van Noten revamped the fabric, adding just the right soupcon of irony to carry off the look. One sweater – linen and mohair torso, bleached denim arms – will feature in magazine shoots worldwide in the next few months.

Smartly, the tailored looks were a tad more reigned in, with a series of sleek linen mix herring bone coats that had great style or arty collarless jerkins and lab coats with curvy leather patches. One imagines that high-street brands worldwide will soon be aping – unfairly - the latter looks, underlining the reach of this Belgium designer.

Van Noten played down suggestions that he had taken a really radical departure.

“I’m always looking for elegance, but using new techniques; and this time with a rawer edge. But it’s still very much me,” Van Noten said.

One of his recent women’s shows featured hyper poised young ladies in the sumptuous and frescoed city hall of Paris. This men’s collection was show in “A Clockwork Orange”-like, graffiti-strewn concrete underpass of a funky riverside building. The models were clean cut, but their steel-toe boots suggested they were ready to rumble, and the soundtrack was a raw instrumental version of The Velvet Underground’s edgy classic “The Gift.”

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