Happy 100th show

Dries Van Noten FW17
Fashion | 2 March 2017

Dries Van Noten FW17

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Yesterday, Dries Van Noten held his 100th show with simplicity and sincerity. Delving into his archive, he mined past prints, casting and music for a triple-threat celebration of the elements that have defined his output – “without nostalgia and with little artifice.”

“100% DVN DNA,” continued the show notes. For any other brand, this could mean a full on fanfare, tailor-made for Instagram shares. Not so for Dries. He may be the master of maximalism, but that title refers to his prowess with print and reference. Nothing crass here, just fantastic, luxurious clothes that effortlessly bring a woman’s wardrobe to life.

Some of the women who best know this fact are the models who wore Dries from the outset, and they returned to the runway yesterday. A mix of younger and older women presented the collection, including several faces who have acted as muse for Dries in several of his previous shows – from Cecilia Chancellor, 50, to Amber Valetta, 42, Emma Balfour, 37, and Erin O’Connor (who recently walked for Gareth Pugh in London), 39. Perhaps the most poignant was the first, Kristina de Coninck, who modelled for Dries in his very first outing back in the early 90s. In a season that’s been set alight by reports of mistreatment of models, it was a show of diversity and ageless beauty that celebrated womanhood – in all its stages.

They walked to sound bytes that “mirror Dries’ mind over the past few months” – a mix of musical references to past show soundtracks and Van Noten’s inspirations. This meant David Bowie’s Heroes (from Soulwax’s mix for the FW11 womenswear show), Serge Gainsbourg’s Initials BB (SS11 womenswear), Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life (FW17 menswear) and many more sonic nuggets, punctuated with several references to Pina Bausch, the German dancer and choreographer whose performances Van Noten has repeatedly cited as a seismic influence on his own work.

The collection saw the designer turn to a different kind of highlight, selecting his favourite prints from his extensive fabric archive. Floral, photographic, abstract, graphic and geometric motifs were updated via upscaling and shots of vivid colour. There was a deep jade jungle graphic, that served as a lush reminder of Van Noten’s love of nature and gardening. But as colourful as it all was, there was nothing overdone about any of it. Even the most vibrant of prints were perfectly grounded with the nonchalant forms that shaped the collection: slouchy blazers, masculine coats, blue jeans and sweaters, wide-legged trousers and socks with practical-height heels. Everything tailored was effortlessly so, models comfortably holding a hand in a pocket here, a slight smile there.

It’s mad how refreshing a smile is in an industry where it’s rarely the done thing. Even better a natural one – you could tell how happy these women were to be a part of Van Noten’s milestone. This is a man whose always designed from the heart, drawing from his love of art, and film and music, without any notion of fashion being art. It’s about actual women wearing actual clothes – clothes that complement their lives and accentuate their unique personalities. The show notes summed it up best: “An ode to the natural creative energy shared by many women.” Amen.

GALLERYCatwalk looks from this show