Seeing a Dries Van Noten collection not on a runway is a strange and unusual experience. But when your look-book is photographed by the one and only Viviane Sassen, it just can’t go wrong. The designer himself wasn’t entirely happy with missing out on the runway, but he sees good sides in it, as a sort of detox treatment. “You know how fond I was of fashion shows? The whole collection was built up around the idea of putting it on a catwalk. But this time, it was thinking about clothes for a shoot.” That’s a first in a 34-year career. “Because we’ve never had an advertising campaign. We lost things, but we learned things. It’s pushing a new kind of creativity.” Another first is the fact that Van Noten has co-ed his women’s and men’s collections into one – a process of rationalization, which was already underway before the pandemic. When you dive into the photographs – partly shot on a breezy day on a Rotterdam beach – the design symbiosis makes total sense: board shorts, Bermudas, easy cotton jackets worn by both boys and girls. “We wanted to work around beauty [that] evokes energy—not one that makes you dream or linger on things that are past, which makes you nostalgic,” he says. “It had to push you to the future, to give energy.” The collection’s vibrant, main theme comes from work of the New Zealand artist Len Lye, whose pioneering technique of painting on celluloid film predates psychedelia by decades. “He was such a discovery for me. He started to do this in the late ’20s, early ’30s.” Working with the Len Lye Foundation, Van Noten developed the prints that run through the collection, “psychedelic sun, sunshine and moons, light bars, and palm trees.” And quite brilliant effects they are, for a designer whose innovation must always move forward through print – the attraction for his art-conscious customers – and through pragmatism. Other highlights: jackets made of “two layers of cotton [that] are foiled and slightly padded, very soft, nice to touch”; black papery cotton dresses with cutout necklines; an oversized parka printed inside and out with a new inkjet technique. Maybe this isn’t the most exquisite collection coming from Van Noten, but surely a sharp and heart-warming one. “I’m quite happy,” he reflected. “The limitations are not always limitations for me anymore.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.