• Text Alice Simkins
  • 28th February 2019

In bloom

Set in Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, Dries Van Noten’s artful architectural silhouettes were imbued with refined romance. Smart tailoring tropes evoking 1940s and 1950s couture opened the show and nodded to a refined feminine sensibility, with billowing skirts and a precisely gathered charcoal-grey pencil dress that echoed the collection’s fascination with floral blooms.

Dries’ fascination with gardens is well documented, the Belgian designer has been known to make lawns out of his catwalks, rooms out of flowers, and cover his rich collections in flora and fauna – while he also owns a grade-listed Italian property with vast gardens he tends to as a source of relaxation and escape. Here, for FW19, Dries’ show notes cited Gertrude Stein’s 1913 poem Sacred Emily (“Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose”), leading into his own musing on the flower as an emblem of beauty, and of the strength and power of delicacy.

Beguiling flowers ran throughout the collection: digital prints of blooms – captured in Van Noten’s garden in October 2018 – adorned countless looks. Over 50 varieties of rose and three varieties of delphinium, acer palmatum and dahlia were shot in front of a hand-held background, creating harsh shadows that appeared severe across sumptuous jewel-hued satins. The natural world thus appeared unnatural, blown out under harsh light.

The closing look juxtaposed strict formal tailoring with an exaggerated, quilted scarf slung over one arm, a motif that recurred in various forms throughout the collection. Oversized bags and long puffer jackets promoted practicality and unexpectedly complemented the focus on streamlined elegance. The mood balanced austere silhouettes with lavish fabrics to create a vivid expression of contemporary femininity, a joyful balance of insouciant allure and functionality.