Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.
PARIS–Three painters were still busy working on a massive mural inside a second floor hall at the Grand Palais when Dries van Noten’s fall men’s collection took to the runway. The artists were commissioned to recreate the colorful work of Dutch artists Gijs Frieling and Job Wouters, and had, in fact, been working for the past 24 hours (their oeuvre can be seen in a time elapsed video can be seen at driesvannoten.com). The painters ignored the models walking behind them and continued working on their canvas wall.
The colorful mural, which also featured quotes from Oscar Wilde, set the tone for a collection that was meant to embody what the designer dubbed ‘psychedelic elegance.’ A white psychedelic-printed long coat worn with a white wool turtleneck and jeans opened the show, followed by various incarnations of these dense prints on jeans, shirts and jackets. Prints have always been a Van Noten trademark–recall the cityscape prints in his spring women’s collection–and here the surrealist print jacquard added a flare to a black tie jacket.
Military references were present in an array of peacoats, single-breasted jackets and frock coats tailored with a ’70s flare. The prints never overwhelmed and injected an element of street style into an otherwise very formal presentation. The blazers and coats–Van Noten classics–took center stage. The high waist three or six-button jackets in herringbone tweed or the black single-breasted hidden button suit were the focus of the tailoring work this season. Small metallic brooches served as pocket squares and the bright orange leather dress shoes provided a spark to somber cut jackets. Accessories were kept to an absolute minimum–only a black leather ‘cartable’ or school bag was shown–reinforcing that clothes are the thing, here, and accessories are just…accessories.
Despite of the prevailing psychedelic-Oscar Wilde-inspiration, Mr. Van Noten never allowed it to intervene with his proven track record of making serious clothes for the fashion man. A visit to his men’s store on the Quai Malaquais would dispel any notion of a divorce between the runway show and the business of selling clothes. There along the rack mounted on the painted walls, what’s on the runway is represented in multiple colors as well as fabric choice. For the Belgian designer, fashion is business first.