Dries Van Noten’s invitation sported a real lipstick-kiss imprint, and the show opened to the strains of Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender. While it hasn’t been difficult to catch Van Noten’s love-bug of late, things are never that simple. So while Marilyn Monroe was the obvious inspiration this season, Van Noten challenged himself by imagining a fantastical scenario, a surreal encounter between the American screen goddess and Salvador Dalí.
An iconic black-and-white portrait of Monroe opened the show under a pink leopard printed coat, defiantly introducing our heroine. She reappeared throughout in all-over photo-prints, intarsia knits, and appliqué. Dalí was represented by red lobster beading and the use of the ordinary as extraordinary. Splashy prints — Hawaiians, florals, leopard, palms, paisleys, and checks — were pushed out and twisted, clashed and overlaid, and taken to a place where they came full circle, if off-kilter.
As ever, the soundtrack was a key element, with snippets from the actress’s films and the voice of the artist, layered and mixed with Public Image Ltd’s This Is Not a Love Song, the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant, and The B-52s’ Rock Lobster. Van Noten declared backstage that Dalí was a punk and his repetitive use of the Monroe prints became a subversive punk act, akin to Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols covers — which is surely how they will be seen by Van Noten’s ever-increasing fan base. He closed with a burst of red and silver confetti to the sounds of Monroe’s I Wanna Be Loved By You, as if the answer was ever in doubt.