What better way for the Paris shows to commence than with a show which was strongly influenced by mid century couture. Dries Van Noten was particularly intent on exploring the architectural shapes of Spanish and Italian couture during the fifties and sixties. The phenomenal Balenciaga exhibit (I know I can't stop talking about it) at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute instantly came to mind from the opening look. I was hoping someone would use the Balenciaga exhibit as a starting point for their Spring/Summer 2012 collection. When prompted on drawing inspiration from couture, Dries Van Noten mentioned that "it's always about elegance and beauty." It's refreshing to see a collection that's academic and intellectual. One can only imagine the library research that went into this collection. Have I told you all how much I LOVE libraries?
The Balenciaga exhibit is an interesting starting point. The collections haven't offered sweeping changes or a new silhouette, which is fitting given our troubled global economy. The couture influence speaks to the larger questions of what luxury means today. The silhouettes are undeniably couture shapes, but in fabrics typically reserved for ready-to-wear. Imagine my excitement when I saw jackets that are fitted at the front with more drape and volume at the back. The peplums, size of the sleeves, slim trousers, inlaid shoulders, lace, and jackets that skim the wrist are all fifties Balenciaga references. Not to mention the Spanish embroidery on the toreador jackets- pure craftsmanship and workmanship.
We all know Van Noten can do prints, but it's inspiring to see a designer who isn't afraid to challenge himself. The technical precision; cutting, draping and attention to line demonstrate that Van Noten is a true couturier. These shapes are complicated and sophisticated which requires precise tailoring. Juxtapositions are key aspects of Van Noten's work and the prints digress from the high fashion silhouettes. The prints don't feel as sophisticated or as high fashion to me as they have been in previous seasons. I have a lot of respect for the collaborative process that went into these prints, but personally I prefer a stylized and perhaps more "high fashion" print.
A lot of designers have been flirting with ladylike style, elegance and refinement, but Dries Van Noten managed to do it in a wearable way that doesn't look kitsch. This collection is chic and grown up, which I always welcome. Can you guess which items I have my eye on?
You can view the complete collection here.
PS- I love the last minute decision to do simple pulled back hair and natural makeup. Clothes this pretty don't need overly stylized hair and makeup.
Credit- Image 5- The New York Times. All other images are from Vogue.com.