Dries Van Noten came into the pandemic guns blazing, making a bold call last spring for the fashion system to fully rewire itself. More than a year later, it seems, he’s taking things more moment by moment. Speaking after showing his Spring 2022 collection, I asked what he feels has changed for him over the past year. He said everyone gained a new appreciation of intimacy: “We discovered how precious it can be to see just one person.”
And it’s true that everything has gotten more personable—designers from Jonathan Anderson to Thom Browne have been feeling that, too, and the idea animated Van Noten’s Spring 2022 collection. “It’s the first collection where you really feel [that] the starting point was being in lockdown,” he said. “When I started to talk to my creative team about the collection, the word we were always using was ‘outburst’—outburst of joy and fun.”
That outburst had an unusually practical source: his design team submitted their own iPhone photos of Antwerp, “so you get images which are really postcard pretty, but other pictures, which are just feeling gritty—private parties at home, a dinner at home with the dog on the couch. You had all those very personal things.”
Those images provided the basis for this season’s exuberant prints—always a Van Noten signature, and over the past few seasons more saturated and photorealistic. (In this case, they are actually photos.) They follow a recent shift, from chinoiserie-inspired florals of a few years ago to leopards and Verner Panton 1960s-ish futurism in recent seasons. Now he’s more focused on collage, inspired by visual artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Isa Genzken, in whose work “the subject is not too important, but more the combination of colors and themes.” Layered alongside the teams’ images were etchings from Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens
For the accompanying film, set to Primal Scream’s “Loaded” (which, between its appearance here and its similarities to Lorde’s latest single, seems to be having an excellent summer), shows the models roaming around Antwerp, with the street as an ersatz catwalk. He loves the song’s intro, cribbed from Peter Fonda in The Wild Angels, which he recited in his lemony Belgian accent: “I want to get loaded, I want to get free!”
“It really gives back the collection to the city,” he reflected.
The clothing itself is a kind of full Van Noten wardrobe. “It was not the idea that we would like to make a very edited collection,” he said. “I wanted to offer quite a lot of diverse types of clothes. So it’s not only tailoring, or focused on something—it’s really like, good pieces of workwear; some denim; floppy, easy jackets made in the lightest silk pongee; [then] you go to tailoring made in the most clean, perfectly made English mohair.”
A decade or so ago, Van Noten was a beloved European designer with a cult American following of art world cognoscenti. But in the past few years, he’s earned a new generation of fans, thanks in part to those loud prints and digestible silhouettes. So amid the chaos of the global fashion industry, things are humming along for Van Noten. The collections he’s shown over the past year have been fantastic, especially his recent riotous womenswear collection with choreography by Rosas, and he has continued partnerships with artists, printing garments for Spring 2021 with the painterly visions of Len Lye. His pieces move briskly on Mr. Porter and Ssense, striking a buyable balance between sure bet, long-term wardrobe investment, and wearable mood-elevator. And he’s been reimagining his stores, particularly his most recent on, in Los Angeles, as spaces to show art and gather fans and customers. “E-comm is getting more important,” he said, “but lockdown gave me the inspiration to rethink brick-and-mortar stores, which are really a palce for me to mix art, and fashion, and food. It’s getting more like a place where you can go not only to buy a t-shirt, but you can go there to find a very special curated selection of vinyl records, or maybe you want to go to see something from the archive, or you just want to see some art on the walls.” Just this week, he opened a new exhibition in the LA store of works by Los Angeles ceramicist (and OG Memphis Group member) Peter Shire. A Dries Van Noten-approved desk for working from home? Now that’s a lockdown win!
Originally posted 2021-06-30 23:57:46.