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Paris Fashion Week: Dries Van Noten’s hero worship

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Dries Van Noten’s runway show was set in the main hall of the Musée Bourdelle, under the watchful gaze of immense stone sculptures -- towering military men rearing up on horseback, gargantuan bare-chested archers with bows drawn and outsize sinewy soldiers with swords raised in mid-strike.

It wasn’t by accident; the designer’s Fall and Winter 2011 menswear collection was a celebration of the heroic and the gallant -- what the designer referred to in the show notes as ‘manful elegance.’

For Van Noten that meant a mix of military influences -- gold hand-embroidered details that evoked the notion of military braiding, belted trench coats, bandleader jackets, high-collared military-style shirts and full-legged trousers that recalled naval uniforms of another era.

But to that he added some of the sartorial touches of nobility -- detachable fur collars and lapels, pagoda shoulders on silk shirts and jackets and luxurious camel car coats.

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The silhouette was a bit of a contrast -- jackets and shirts were tailored and trim, while trousers were full or oversized, keying into a seasonal trend, and the color palette was grounded in the navy blues, blacks, whites and khaki colors of military-issue uniforms.

Military motifs are common almost to the point of overkill in menswear, but that wasn’t the case with Van Noten’s approach, which proves that a talented designer can keep step with trends while marching to the beat of his own drummer.

-- Adam Tschorn in Paris


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