March 5, 2013

Easily one of the most highly anticipated shows of Paris Fashion Week was that of Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. Known for his eccentric styling and penchant for digital prints, Van Noten has developed a reputation as one of the more experimental designers at Paris Fashion Week.

The exorbitant amount of hype surrounding the show was evident even prior to entering the Salons of the Hôtel de Ville, where the presentation of his AW13 collection was to be held. Everyone from  Anna Wintour to Susie Bubble could be spotted entering the lavish venue, which due to last minute changes in capacity had to turn away more than 30 invited guests at the door. Members of the press reported that security actually placed glass barricades in front of them when denying them entry, despite them having invitations. The pre-show protocol was also markedly intense: this was the first time I have ever been required to go through a metal detector and have my bag scanned in order to enter a fashion event.

In stark contrast to the dog-eat-dog vibe outside, the palatial interior of the Hotel de Ville felt like Paris at the absolute apex of its sumptuous grandeur. Following a trail of red carpet up a marble staircase with several dozen chandeliers hovering above, I gained a distinct feeling that Van Noten must have had something very special planned if his new collection was going to be able to compete with its majestic surroundings.

The collection, inspired by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, paid homage to the glamorous dance duo through a merging of various unexpected hybrids of ballroom menswear and womenswear. Early looks tended to be classically masculine pieces punctuated with more feminine details. For example, an oversized grey men’s coat speckled with rhinestones and delicate marabou feathers of the same grey hue gave a touch of feminine elegance to an otherwise androgynous silhouette. Slouchy black trousers and a pale blue collared shirt were layered underneath a champagne flapper-esque fringe dress and preppy tailored jacket with vertical stripes.

However in the latter-half of the show, there was less focus on the juxtaposition of the masculine and feminine. Here more emphasis was placed on Ginger’s end of the spectrum through the use of an abundance of colorful marabou feathers in mustard yellow, salmon, and hot pink, to pump up the volume of dresses. Models also began trading in their manly brogues for bejeweled high heels. Interestingly he continued to not rely on his trademark digital prints, instead bravely choosing to introduce more complex embroidery of baroque acanthus leaves on jackets and blouses, which worked well off of the show’s opulent backdrop.

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