“Flamboyant — someone who enjoys being both sophisticated and raw,” said Dries Van Noten backstage of this season’s woman, after the last notes of a string quartet had faded and the parade of bold, colourful outfits stilled to a long line-up in the bare barn of a building that hosted his show.
Dries might have added to his list, someone who loves colour and sparkle; who can stride down the runway on platform shoes in vivid pink or bright patterns; and who wears a colourful bra on the outside, like an African tribeswoman. And that’s not to mention the tattoo effect of patterned “arm hose”.
None of it seemed in Antwerp’s style, that grey stone territory of the Belgian designer’s home. But the unexpected was the great strength of this show.
How glorious it was to see the designer, who has recently been showing quiet clothes under the elaborate gilding of Paris’s Hôtel de Ville, turn that idea of a show on its head. Instead of the moss carpet on the runway a year ago, he was presenting colourful and decorative clothes in a raw building.
From the start, when a lavish gilded bow on a white shirt joined more golden threads on silk trousers, it was evident that Dries had chosen the pared-down set as a stand-off for blue wings flying across a golden coat — and for the high-rise shoes in bougainvillea pink.
I didn’t really understand the external bra (in bright pink again), but it is a minor trend of this fashion season and made for a feminine statement with a full silken skirt.
Take away colour and texture, and the clothes were simple: tailored jackets, straight trousers, tops and skirts. It was as though a magic paintbrush had been through the closet and made the simplest things sing.
While Dries was curating two separate exhibitions of his work in Paris and Antwerp, shown beside art objects that had inspired him, the designer was inevitably looking back. In contrast, this show was a simple, intensely colourful forward march, from a pink and yellow cape to an apricot blazer and, again, those pink shoes.
Just when the colour and pattern became repetitive, a cascade of pink frills poured down a navy skirt.
It was enhanced reality for a cheery and colourful tomorrow.