Anyone who saw the documentary about the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten will remember his beautiful Victorian garden in Antwerp its flowerbeds filled with roses, peonies, geraniums, lupins, dahlias and poppies.
For his winter 2019 collection, shown in Paris on Wednesday in the bowels of the Palais de Tokyo, both the masculine grey pinstripe tailoring and filmy ethereal dresses had floral digital photographic prints drawn from his garden applied in stylish, unexpected and often delicate ways – from a rose in the nape of a black or grey shirt to a suit imprinted with a herbaceous border or a clear raincoat embellished with rose motifs.
This was a romantic collection, but not sweet – rose prints can be thorny to handle. Van Noten’s unsentimental and disciplined approach brings a painterly touch to the décor informed by his considerable horticultural skills.
“I deal with the stress of the fashion industry by working the earth,” he once said.
He certainly worked ideas of form and colour combinations very beautifully right down to accessories, specially designed Fogal tights in shades of cassis, stone or berry.
Even blocky knee boots and shoes with Lucite heels came in mint and purple shades, the whole collection presented against a modern arrangement of Roy Orbison’s 70s hit Crying.
The show opened with tailored trouser suits and coats in graphite, slate and charcoal – variations on grey ensembles for winter that made their own rather somber but businesslike sartorial statements that would appeal to professional working women.
He also introduced quilting in a notable way in voluminous down coats in plain black, purple or flowery fabrics, but also used it obliquely, half shawled across a grey suit or tied around the neck.
Other coats included a utilitarian but iridescent version of a trench, tent shapes in vivid blue satin while a standout piece was a heavily blue and green embellished bomber jacket worn with navy trousers, updating a classic streetwear item to luxury status.
The sobriety of grey flannel suiting – longer full skirts, mannish double breasted coats, shapely dresses with hip flounces was offset occasionally with embellishment – a t-shirt shaped top crusted with gold and silver worn with grey pants or in light silk dresses splashed with winter flower arrangements or lightly veiled in chiffon.
Beading and embroidery always have a place in his Van Noten’s collections and for evening thick bands of gold and silver decorated the straps of simple black dresses, low key yet made for the limelight.
Faux fur stoles came not in conventional shades but in neon orange and red.
In all a collection which balanced those capacious shapes and precision tailoring with delicate, dreamy dresses in the designer’s signature sophisticated way.