Becoming the Art: Dries Van Noten Men’s Spring 2017

The hand-cast invitation, a slab of plaster, was quickly understood at show’s start. The first few exits looked as though they were made of raw canvas, especially look 8, which resembled a modernized painting smock used in an art studio.

Van Noten had the Arts and Crafts movement on his mind, and took it as a springboard to launch into historical Flemish tapestries, deconstruction of form, and textures and techniques more in line with fine-art subjects than fashion trends. The intelligent, inquisitive approach paid dividends, with a more conceptual feeling than recent collections.

The tapestries were photo-printed onto the fabrics, after the Baroque Belgian originals, the trompe-l’œil effect and oversize maximalist prints becoming incredibly contemporary. With deft patchworking and topstitching, they were brought to life, and reimagined as handcrafted objects. The show notes spoke of the knitwear being inspired by textile and ceramic art, to give them an ‘unruly free-spirited’ feel, and it added a rawness, alongside the hand-knotted macramé fringing that felt truly artisanal.

More modern photo prints of patchworked denims, as well as injections of metallic silver and technical fabrics, juxtaposed nicely against the craft and handiwork giving it an essential newness.

The end of the runway was a wall of vintage French car headlights, created by Royal de Luxe, which captured the models like deers as they walked. Though Van Noten walks his own path and grows his legions of fans by the season, he manages to stay perfectly on trend, here with wide-legged trousers, oversize sweatshirting, re-imagined camouflage prints, and a blend of soft-tailored smart balanced with a chic street-influenced casual. 

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