I just watched the latest show of Dries Van Noten’s Men Summer 2015 during Paris Fashion week, a fluid and effortless collection inspired by ballet in general and Rudolf Nureyev in particular – of which I could wear absolutely everything including the shoes. This reminded me that, while New York has been monopolizing my life (and these pages) lately, I had the most enchanting little Paris three-day break, earlier in May (booked soon after Dries Van Noten – Inspirations opening was announced).
It is not a retrospective, the Belgian designer repeated in every opportunity. Truth be told, it is not a fashion exhibition either. Rather than just displaying his creations in array (a whole lot bigger space would be called for), Van Noten, together with curator Pamela Golbin, handpicked and brought together under the roof of les Arts Decoratifs, a collection of ideas, dreams and inspirations.
The exhibition room is soothingly dark, with soft spotlight leading our eyes to all the right places. Van Noten’s designs are intermingled with those of designers that influenced him and works of art that inspired him, that either belong to the museum or were borrowed from other museums or private collections.
The pieces are arranged in themed groups with names like: Rapture, Punk, The Kiss, The Piano, Gold, Foppish, Iconoclast and The Duke, with Bowie, Cocteau and Visconti making cameo appearances. There are dresses by Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior, paintings by Francis Bacon, Michaël Borremans, Léon Spilliaert, films like Stanley Kubrick’s ”Clockwork Orange” and Jane Campion’s ”The Piano”, extracts of dance performances by Pina Bausch (Tanztheater Wuppertal) and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas.
They are all placed in glass cubicles creating corridors and passages, slightly disorientating, much like a maze in the pathways of which you wouldn’t mind turning around, forever. If the first floor would be thought of as the innermost parts of the artist’s house, the first floor is his garden. Here, Van Noten’s creations inspired ”by nature and technology, raw energy and finesse” blend in with Cecil Beaton’s bunny suit for a bal masqué of 1937, florals by Dior, Ricci and Balenciaga, with India, Bollywood, Spain and Mexico shimmering in warm light, a trip to a fantasy-land on indian cottons and silks, sarongs and kimonos, embroidered folkloric dress and fluid florals.
The exhibition includes designs and video clips from Van Noten’s very beginnings (three of his graduation pieces of 1981 are on show next to designs by Montana, Westwood, Versace, Mugler and Gaultier, a reminder that here is a man who made even the terrifyingly padded ’80s look elegant), until the present (his research for the exhibition was a direct influence on his Spring/Summer 2014 collection for Men & Women).
I’m not sure if photography was allowed, there was a ”No” sign outside but everyone kept ignoring it and no one protested.
This is a small sample of a brilliant exhibition where the worlds of fashion and art become one and create a wonderful, inspiring place.
(No flash was used for obvious reasons) – I hope you enjoy!
Flower Power section. Spring/Summer Men’s Collection 2014 follows:
Exhibition prolonged to 02nd November 2014.
Les Arts Décoratifs – Mode et textile
107 rue de Rivoli
Viewed on 09 May 2014
Photography by Konstantinos Implikian