“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” said Dries Van Noten backstage, wiping a tear as the audience cheered an exceptional show
As if! Did he imagine that we had not instantly understood this ode to nature – a miraculously updated Arts and Crafts movement from the end of the 19th-century – translated as modern, sporty clothes?
Just the sight of the furry grass and foliage carpet on the runway had suggested a green dream, even before the first birds started tweeting and then chirruping to the music, or after the models had stretched out on this fairy green floor until their outfits created a floral bed.
It was one of those poetic moments in the spring/summer 2015 shows that will be etched in fashion memory and be part of the Van Noten oeuvre.
Maybe it was the overwhelming successful exhibition mingling artists with fashion that Dries curated at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, extended to 2nd November, that encouraged him to turn back to nature. Yet at the same time he made these new designs dense with artistry.
The general effect was of decorative clothes, but in easy shapes, the surfaces as rich and three dimensional as trees in a forest – not to mention that mossy carpet woven by Buenos Aires-based artist Alexandra Kehayoglou.
Texture or other surface interest was primordial to the show. There were colourful silken stripes on a swingy coat or a furry sweater. Sleeveless coats, the effect as mossy and rugged as on the catwalk, were worn nonchalantly with narrow trousers, while chiffon only rarely floated on a long romantic dress. More typical were breast bands warped round a top or over bare skin, leaving glimpses of flesh.
Shorts and the ever-present trousers, as well as those wedge sandals and nature jewellery, garnered a freshness that prevented the textiles looking like William Morris weaves.
Dries was really romancing nature: the colours, hot with pink as if in a flower bed; a pattern pallid, as if faded by the sun; or a skirt created in tufts of purple like a psychedelic bush.
If any of the effects were done digitally, it did not look that way: more as if an apple-print fabric had been found in a rummage in an attic, along with russet embroidery. It was as though they were planted together and grew into a coat.
Words cannot describe dense detail worn so lightly, nor how the designer put together this 21st-century version of Arts and Crafts.
Dries Van Noten is famously proud of his Belgian garden. But this was more than a flower-strewn version of nature’s beauty. It was a tour de force of design and imagination – and love.