PFW: DRIES VAN NOTEN

Dries Van Noten S/S16
Dries Van Noten S/S16

I’m not sure what we all did back before the Internet was everywhere and no one had a smartphone with which they could double-check information. Of course, back then no one expected runway reviews in as close to real-time as possible, either. There were certainly a couple of times this afternoon when having access to information came in quite handy. For example, I recognized the Balenscu Quartet when they took their place in the center of the immense, open warehouse in which the Dries Van Noten show is held. I didn’t recognize the music, though, and when told that it was Kraftwerk, I needed a search engine to quickly inform me that it was a German electronic music band popular in the 1990s. Sorry, they’re not in my playlists. We hear a lot of electro-pop music at these shows, but hearing the same music from a string quartet was quite different.

The same goes for Van Noten’s clothes. On one level, there are elements here that we’ve seen rather often this season, especially the ruffles and the gender-bending use of menswear silhouettes with opulent brocade and embroidery. While the touch Dries gives to these pieces, done in a tremendous amount of silk with tulle accents, is his own, the collection is largely commercial, the few pieces that are more conceptual being easily adaptable for retail.

But there were also several places where the looks were rather surprising. Take, for example, the platform shoes and wedge heels, which is a different turn for this designer. Seeing already tall models with an additional four inches on them changes the perspective more than one might think. Electric colors were also quite different from the norm. These were shades of pink and yellow and green and, most dominantly, purple that were strong enough to put out one’s eyes, styled in ways that forced one to sit up and take notice.

What is most likely to have people talking for the next several days are the second-skin gloves and body suits that, at their best, caused the models to appear as though they were heavily tattooed, and at their worst, which still wasn’t bad, looked futuristic and somewhat alien. These were worn below, and often in contrast to, the fashion. The designs weren’t especially complicated, which is probably a good thing, but definitely required more than just a glance and is certain to get a much stronger reaction on the street than it did on the runway.

Then, at the end of the show, rather than models making a final walk and leaving, they stayed out in the middle of the floor, like mannequins. The designer came and took his bow. The quartet left. And the models still stood there. Then the guests rushed them. Had I been a model, I would have likely freaked. To their credit, each of the models maintained their composure as people fought to get an up-close look at the pieces that is normally not afforded to guests. Guests were also polite enough to not paw all over everything, which helped, but don’t tell me that the sight of 500 people coming at you isn’t unnerving.

I am still amazed that there are pictures of the show online by the time guests leave the venue. Technology definitely has its advantages. But then, the downside is that we’ve lost the sense of season. These clothes are ostensibly for spring/summer 2016, but there are so many coats and long sleeves that they could just as easily be worn now and no one would question your judgement. Many designers, including this one, offer a limited collection for immediate sale. Is that really a good thing?

I’m not sure whether technology is helping or hurting the fashion industry, but it’s certainly keeping it interesting.

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