Dries Van Noten’s girls walked dreamily to the sound of Bon Iver’s Woods. With the words of the song—”Slow down the time”—in perfect rhythm with the sound of their bone, wood and tortoiseshell-heeled steps, it seemed we were being encouraged to do just that: slow down, pay attention to history and craft, and absorb the calm and beauty before us.
Last season Van Noten took inspiration from Spanish couture and city lights, using digital imagery as his print source for the first time. This season, fall 12, could not have been more different. He mined the archives of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, specifically ancient Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Tibetan costume. He photographed pieces flat and blew up the iconography to larger-than-life proportions, becoming almost reminiscent of a museum souvenir scarf. But there was nothing kitsch or gift-shop about the master’s handling of historical yet familiar material. He cut and spliced the imagery into panels over a jacket and had them fall across a calf-length dress or skirt. Blue was the most dominant of colors, first as a royal blue and finally as a bright turquoise laid across a solid black or white ground, most notably over white men’s suit.
Printed tunic tops or aprons appeared over narrow trousers, Asian-style. While print is always the primary thread of a Dries Van Noten collection, this time he balanced it with dark gray and olive-green double-breasted military coats, belted jackets and large or cropped parkas, sometimes embellished with bits of bone. Embroidery came in the form of birds and cranes that were displayed in formation over the shoulder of a jacket or down the legs of trousers.