For Dries Van Noten, the spring-summer 2023 menswear collection wasn’t just a bold return to the Parisian runway, but also an aesthetics shift. “The Zazous in Paris in the 1940s, and Buffalo in London in the 1980s. Both were in periods which were a bit similar. Hard times. So we wanted to make our own version of that.” Van Noten said he’d been researching male subcultures for inspiration this season. That turned out to be a strong opening statement: louche, dandified pinstripe tailoring, disrupted with lingerie-pink body-con “corsets” and camisoles. “Masculine-feminine” is how he put it. The Zazous were underground rebels who dressed loudly, frequented bars and jazz clubs, and defied the Nazi occupation of Paris. Buffalo was the subversive British style movement founded by Ray Petri in the time of Margaret Thatcher. In these, our disturbingly Right-swinging times, you could catch the significance of the timing behind Van Noten’s wanting to work a queer anti-authoritarian reference. That said, his suit silhouettes, with their double-breasted jackets and wide, drapey trousers were spot-on as non-disrupted standalones. The one that came out a bit later, the jacket and pants in two slightly different shades of burgundy was Dries Van Noten at his simple, elegant best. But he had other ideas about underground subcults going on. That turned out to be part of the reason behind his choice of the the rooftop of a carpark as a venue. “Garage scene grifters, cowboys, sleepy dreamers,” was the character gloss he put on the second half of the collection. Here, he delved into the motocross trend that’s sweeping youth fashion, hybridizing bike pants with track bottoms and translating them into satin; he also threw in Western shirting and styled cowboy boots bare-legged with shorts. This part didn’t really convince me – the result felt overly random. Yet in the heat of a Paris summer, it was easy to see an intended destination for this kind of casualized Van Noten dressing: next year’s festivals and all night raves, of course. He’s obviously out to catch a new young audience with this offering. But who knows? Hopefully the youth are more than likely to be going for those dandy suits instead.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.