PARIS -- Belgian designer Dries Van Noten is to be the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris next year, and from the stunning collection he showed Wednesday at Paris Fashion Week, I would have to ask, what took so long?
The scene: The show was set in a warehouse in the 13th arrondissement, but Van Noten made the raw space seem intimate and treated guests to a live musical performance too.
The audience was seated along the length of one wall with a gorgeous gold-slatted screen for a backdrop on the opposite side. At the start of the show, Colin Greenwood from Radiohead took his spot at the center of the runway, picked up a bass guitar and started playing a beat, keeping time for mix master Van Noten and his elegant fashion riff.
The look: A masterful mix of loud and soft, simple and ornate, whimsical and sweet. Some familiar themes from the designer's playbook (gold leaf, painterly florals, ethnic details) along with some new notes (tassels, exaggerated ruffles).
Key pieces: Gold plisse skirt; intricate white-on-white embroidered top; dresses and tops with decorative ruffles fanning out like party decorations; barbed wire print silk shift with ruffled sleeves; tapestry woven jacket over sweet, dot-print pants; gold filigree-like embroidered lace racer back dress; sleeveless coat made from tulip silk damask, reproduced from the archives of Les Arts Decoratifs, worn with reverse side out and thread work showing; crystal star necklaces; chunky platform sandals with ethnic gold details.
The verdict: Perfectly imperfect and eccentric. In this era of global luxury brands and fast fashion, Van Noten's genius -- and his appeal -- is that each piece still feels special, as if he composed it just for you.