PFW: DRIES VAN NOTEN F/W 2014

Venues can offer a lot that is ultimately distracting to the fashion show they’re hosting. Given that Dries Van Noten chose Paris’ dramatically beautiful City Hall, no one should have been too terribly surprised at having to pass through a metal detector at the door, but they were, and many were not prepared. Hello, unreasonably long line que. Apparently there is also just enough space between the wood parquet floor and whatever lies beneath it to make it acoustically resonant, which I don’t think was factored into the overall effect. How distracting was it? Enough that models’ steps were not drowned out by the music.

What was ultimately most distracting, however, were the clothes themselves. Distracting? Visually disturbing wouldn’t be a totally inappropriate description, either. Not really in a bad way, but one of those that had me reaching for my medication before we reached the half-way point of the show. My brain wasn’t quite ready to process this manner of imagery when the croissant we’d had on the way over hadn’t even started digesting yet. This was a very challenging show for one my age to sit through. Were there anyone in the audience with vertigo, they may not have made it at all.

All this isn’t meant to slight the clothes. What Dries Van Noten has done here is actually quite brilliant. While the silhouettes are standard; very feminine dresses and separates that are immensely wearable, the prints that dominate pretty much every look are far from standard. Van Noten adopts a set of psychedelic prints for his fall collection that is based on pop art, very loud, very busy, and very … distracting. Set in and against some very bright colors, my eyes had difficulty adjusting and, on more than one occasion, I’m pretty sure I felt my brain do a back flip in its effort to process the images. From spirals to florals, the prints at time seemed to come right off the fabric and take over, no 3D glasses required.

Fabrics here are totally seasonally appropriate. There’s plenty of wool, leather, and lined fabrics to give this garden of material the warmth of a hot house. Applique lilies on wool coats are surprisingly attractive, definitely not a touch I would have anticipated finding attractive. Taken as separates this collection comes off very well and is one that might find several places in your wardrobe. However, as styled for this show, they are the type of prints that leave old people like me disoriented, even if the person wearing them is a close family member.

I will be very anxious to see which of these pieces actually survives to production. Taken separately, every last element is fantastic. This is undoubtedly going to be a big for European and Asian collections especially. Together, though, especially as styled today, this is a collection that is hard on the eyes.

Plenty of people will wear this collection and I’ve no doubt the whole set will be immensely popular. Just, be nice and warn us old people before you do, the distraction could cause accident.

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