Dries Van Noten stood backstage looking at his conglomeration of fabrics — historic brocades facing off a plain raincoat, or a flower-embroidered apron tied at the rear over chinos.
“I went to extremes,” said Dries. “For me it was about translating the passion that women had in the past for fashion, like the historical icons, but now pushing them to our actual times. I wanted to say, okay, if you are passionate about fashion and fabrics, decoration and accessories — then how could you wear it now?”
The designer’s words — plus the all-female soundtrack, including Nancy Sinatra singing “Bang Bang” — further brought out the tension between the baroque grandeur of the Paris city hall, and the sense of freedom in the way the clothes were shown.
But this was not one of those scour-the-attic collections, either piecing together a would-be hippie style or revelling in fashion’s past glory.
Instead the show was about romancing the fabrics, giving them a new life that was as much about the casual way they were worn, as it was about the original embroideries and colourful patterns.
“Exuberant fabrics,” Dries called them, telling me that it was about “rethinking it all”. That included decorative materials, furs fluffy at the shoulders, and flowers in a bunch at the neckline. The result was an unlikely mix that Dries somehow pulled together into real clothes.
Compared to last season’s frolic on a moss-green carpet, this show seemed less carefree and convincing, although it was fun to see haute-couture shapes remade in cotton, such as wearable toile. They formed a literal backdrop to a gilded coat, which morphed into dull quilting; or splashes of gilt on a plain dress.
This game of high-low has never been played quite so elegantly, in that both the fabrics and the way the clothes were cut seemed in deliberate contrast. Occasionally, something with no apparent historical connection would step out — say a striped, fluffy cardigan jacket with just the clutch bag in fancy brocade.
The show was audacious, intriguing and quintessentially Dries. But this collection should have come with a warning: don’t try this magical mix-and-match at home!