#SuzyPFW: The Magic of the Eclectic and Spontaneous
Dries the artist
With a wild mix of joyful colours and a sweet harmony of handcraft melded with hi-tech, Dries Van Noten realised the impossible dream. He took a tangle of ideas – almost as wild as the Siberian wind blowing down the Paris boulevards – and made a fashion show which was a poetic display of pattern and palette.
As Deep Purple sung their 1970 rock anthem, ‘Child in Time’, until the gilded chandeliers quivered, the Belgian designer sent out clothes for all reasons and seasons. He took unexpected colours and unbelievable materials, mixing them together in the most delightful way. The result of all this intense work and the crazy textures was a series of clothes that seemed as light as the single feather pinned like a brooch to waft over a simple dress.
The colours alone – from what the designer called a “fountain-pen blue” through rust, sunshine yellow and lichen green – made an extraordinary mix. But so, in their genteel way, did the clothes. The expression, “everything but the kitchen sink”, is usually said pejoratively. But at this show, the mash-up of techno sports gear and dense handcraft was dramatic, and produced a very fine collection.
“For me it was something very spontaneous, and without taking advice, we just went for it,” Dries explained. “We asked ourselves, ‘What are people going to say when the music is too loud or too wild?’ But we had to play the full track loud, as we did in the 1970s.”
In his show notes, Dries also listed words to describe his work – joyful, natural, expressive, frenetic, playful – and these were only part of a long line. Usually a fashion designer taking ideas from many different sources is aiming to create dissonance. But to do the opposite – to meld an outpouring of colours and shapes into a comprehensible collection – created a great fashion moment.
The show opened with coats that looked as though their textured grey surfaces were part of an ethnic blanket. Was it back to Van Noten’s early years as a wanderer? Not at all, because the next coat on the catwalk was black – a round-shouldered Paul Poiret shape from the 1930s with delicate flowers on thin silver stalks as the pattern. The show continued with contrasting pieces: soft peasant shirts, a sophisticated mole-brown fake fur with dabs of moss green. Just describing the clothes in their shades of green or yellow, and then suddenly sky blue, makes the colours sound poetic. They were even more so in their life on the runway.
Dries has never been affiliated to a fashion group. He has made his own sweet way, as an independent, in Antwerp. And this collection showed him on top form in a madcap way that ultimately had amazing grace.
Margiela is everywhere
There are two separate exhibitions opening in Paris, one at the Grand Palais about Martin Margiela’s relationship with Hermès, which debuted in Antwerp; the other at the Palais Galliera – a study of the Belgian designer’s career until he retired from public view in 2009.
With that weight of history, is it any wonder that John Galliano, who is now Creative Director of the Margiela brand, was looking in another direction? In fact, several of them. First there was the idea of protection, with models clutching and wrapping duvet-like, puffed-up garments. Then the designer followed up on one of his ideas from his January Spring/Summer 2018 Haute Couture show. Object: To make plastic look fantastic. (Although Heaven knows what it does to our planet.) He also used holograms to make transparent fabric glow with colour – artistically eerie in the case of a purple, green, and yellow bag that looked like it had been dredged from the sea at sunset.
Galliano’s style can be described as ‘tough romantic’, which means that he gave a sharp edge to these journey-into-space clothes, where multi-coloured squares of plastic, glowing on the outside of a top and skirt, competed with the shiny vinyl inside. Added to that were techno sneakers with a wide strap for an even more apocalyptic vision of society.
Playing with clothes as though they were waste products, thrown on with careless, cover-up rapture, goes back so very many years to when Galliano was playing with discarded and re-purposed materials for his own label and then for Dior. That ought to make him a perfect fit with the original Martin Margiela, who was fashion’s first major recycler.
But where are we now at Maison Margiela, exactly? Aren’t the nylon materials and even the illusionary effects, the viscose fringing and reflective materials, the worst thing for our planet? Maybe not, in Galliano’s attentive hands. And – at least when the show started, with its puffy, bright blue, down jacket – the clothes seemed to fit in as fine modern dressing. But in the way that they were presented, there is no doubt that Galliano thinks we should be afraid. Very afraid. But without any clear indication of the who, what, and why of his message.