Dries Van Noten‘s spring-summer 2023 collection was a rather calm return to the womenswear runway. Opening a collection with about 20 all-black looks is quite a surprise move coming from the Belgian designer. Van Noten said he’d been thinking of Malevich’s 1915 painting The Black Square, an infinitely readable and to many terrifying abstract black vacuum. But these looks were no void: by enforcing the rigidly all-black rule we were forced to consider the texture, structure and silhouettes, all highly-designed, that passed us. These started with an oversized jacket in a technical, spongey, meshed material that was fastened with a glass-headed pin to create a furled, succulent gather. Slowly, against this structure, emerged a tentative undergrowth of decorative foliage: a ruffle bag trailing fringe, a floral brocade on a fitted dress with a tendril of ruffled jersey on the right shoulder, a ruffled shoe worn beneath a soft-shouldered jacket with a bomber jacket hem, a fringe-hemmed coat. Then an eruption of fractal, myriad, pleated ruffles encrusted like some dark barnacle on a dress, and at last the first glimpse of color in a strata of indigo paillette on a crop top. Phase two introduced color, mostly pale and washed at first, in rustling paillette pieces, and some extraordinarily embellished cotton jersey T-shirts and skirts. The third phase leading to crescendo came, inevitably by now, with the injection of floral patterns against the previously established color and structure. These patterns were drawn then redrafted from past Van Noten collections and mashed sumptuously against each other. And because of that slow build of all that had preceded it, you could appreciate the composite elements beneath the dazzling pattern. So, to recap, what was that theme again, Dries? “Optimism,” he replied: “Because life can be really beautiful.”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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