Tim Blanks’ best fashion shows of all time: Dries Van Noten, spring / summer 2005 | Fashion Show Review, Tim’s Take, Tim Blanks’ Best Fashion Shows of All Time
The celebration of Dries Van NotenGolden Jubilee, his 50th show, was originally planned for Les Gobelins, where the most famous tapestries of the 17th and 18th centuries were produced. That atmospheric combination of past and present would have been typical of Dries. But a change of plans meant that when guests boarded buses for his presentation on a chilly October evening in 2004 on a chilly October evening in 2004, they ended up in the former home of boiler makers Babcock & Wilcox, an abandoned industrial site in La Courneuve on the northern outskirts. from Paris.
If you ever need proof that fashion is our easiest entry point into the wonder of alchemy, there are a number of Dries Van Noten shows that offer themselves for research. But this was very special. Long-time employee Etienne Russo and his production house Villa Eugenie were used to the challenge. They had years of experience in changing the ears of sows into silk wallets for Van Noten. Still, conveying rusty grimness to be wrapped in grimly elegant sophistication was such a transportation experience that people spontaneously applauded. I imagine there was also an element of lighting involved.
Van Noten has always been a perfect host. Drinks and snacks were served in a reception room. A pianist played Chopin. Then, thick velvet curtains were drawn to reveal an adjacent room. Even more applause when we entered a cavernous warehouse divided in two by a 140-meter dining table. Every time you see such a space on a Van Noten show, you look up to see how he brings the space down, to make it intimate: the rising and falling curtains of hundreds of thousands of lights for Autumn / Winter 2003/4, the glowing Magritte-like canopy of open umbrellas for the presentation of Autumn / Winter 2006 men … such visions are dreams made. You didn’t have to look too far up here. 130 chandeliers floated just above the table top.
Dinner was served. There were 250 guests on either side of the table, 500 in total, served by 250 apron waiters with impeccably synchronized precision. We ate fish, although the food was secondary to the ceremony. When the main course was cleared, the chandeliers floated to heaven and the models began their graceful procession down the center of the table to the steady drone of Ravel’s Boléro.
Typical of Van Noten was that he felt no compulsion to combine the seriousness of a golden anniversary – or the spectacle of the celebration – with clothing of a corresponding magnificence. No, this was a spring / summer collection and he offered it: sundresses, floral prints, bermudas, rope-soled sandals, flared white skirts and loosely checked, oversized cotton shirts. Portofino in the 50s? Not so fast. The designer also mentioned Eastern European folklore as a reference. The embroidery and embellishments reflected folkloric motifs. Again typical of Van Noten: the smoothness of washed cotton and linen was congealed with crystals, sequins and beads. Gemstones embroidered skirts were combined house dress striped cotton shirts. Sunlit carpet prints may have been a nod to the original location.
The models walked with woven head ornaments, almost naive tiaras. In a charmingly strange way, they suggested participants in an ancient ritual (slightly on the lighter side of) Midsommar). There were also silk jacquards woven on antique looms in Como. That has always been Van Noten’s way: confusing echoes of otherness in his proposals for the here and now.
He never advertised. Shows have always been his primary means of communication. “So we try to give them a certain eloquence,” said Van Noten at the time. This particular presentation spoke volumes. Literally. At the end of the show, shelves descended on which were copies of a black, silk-bound book, one for each guest. The book was a record of 50 Dries shows, with gold endpapers to match the anniversary. Each contained a polaroid overlooking the exact chandelier the intended recipient chaired. “An emotional exchange,” noted one guest. I thought it was absolutely surreal.
Van Noten goes into fashion history because of the unspeakable balance between emotion, intelligence and extravagance that distinguishes his shows. But you might be able to measure the sheer size of his 50th with the choices he made for the mise en scene of the menswear fair that followed. Bare light bulbs dangled over a walkway of rough wooden planks. A golden anniversary is difficult to follow.
The images in this review, courtesy of Dries Van Noten, are not the entire Dries Van Noten Spring / Summer 2005 collection.
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