Crowds queue up to see Belgian designer make an exhibition of himself

Dries Van Noten is the star attraction at Paris Fashion Week – and the Louvre


Paris fashion week opened yesterday, the hottest tickets being for the first major show, that of designer Dries Van Noten staged in the gilded opulence of Hotel de Ville. Crowds attending the event outside clashed with hundreds queuing up for the free Brassai exhibition of photographs elsewhere in City Hall.

Van Noten’s name is centre-stage this week as the 55-year- old Belgian designer is the subject of an exhibition at the Louvre which opened last night at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, one of the few living fashion designers to have the honour of a solo show at the museum.

Along with some 200 of his creations, it will display paintings, textiles, photographs and garments that have been influential in his work including material lent from the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, the Musée d’Orsay and the private collection of the King of the Belgians. One item, a 16th-century Bronzino, had not been moved from the Louvre since it was purchased by Louis XIV.

Tacky glamour
Van Noten’s winter collection tackled the tacky glamour of garish floral prints, stripes, ruffles and sequins and in his usual artful way turned it into something modern and utterly original. In a neat reversal of the ’70s trend, he called it Power Flower and the opening ensemble, a bold fuchsia and grey stripe jacket decorated with an unlikely 3D plastic orange stargazer lily, set the tone.

Colour clashes
Such clashes of colour, pattern and shape were deliberate, but for most of the time they worked; funfair stripes of black and yellow for a coat, bias-cut longer skirts in navy wool and orange sequinned panels, top-heavy tunics with dropped, gathered sleeves and languid silk dresses with big lily prints.

Within the discordant colour combinations there were harmonies; tailored pieces with that mannish femininity that is his signature, the roomy standaway brocade coats, the languid trouser suits and easygoing weave patterned knits.

A long slither of a dress in tiny kaleidoscopic sequins was disco dainty and a black jacket emblazoned with hand-painted silvered motifs and trimmed with eyelets freed raunchy details from glitz. “The good thing about fashion,” the designer said recently, “is that you always move ahead.”