Dries Van Noten insisted that his summer menswear show began and ended with color. With the best will in the world, that’s a hard subject to make sound interesting, for once we’ve got beyond dutifully listing his palette of tobacco brown, plaster pink, teal, beige, mustard, and khaki, what is there? But look at the pictures! The background of shelves of hanging files may suggest that he was covertly expounding on men in a corporate context, as Demna Gvasalia had done at Balenciaga. But the reality was weirder still for the audience, because Van Noten’s show was held eight floors above a functioning parking lot in the Marais, in offices that were once occupied by the left-wing Paris newspaper Libération.
“I didn’t want it to be theoretical,” Van Noten said afterward, and that must be respected. He makes real clothes, like the tailored jackets he described as being a bit slouchy and “off.” Yet—consciously or unconsciously—there was a definite military feel to the collection. Looking at the army green camp shirt, which had frayed short sleeves; at the voluminous high-rise chinos with a tucked-in officer’s shirt; and at the calmed-down Hawaiian-ish-print shirts, it was hard to resist seeing it as a commentary on contemporary life.
As far as the season’s fashion agenda goes, he succeeded in hitting every target: the boxy Hawaiian-print shirts, the drapey trousers, the double-belted look. There was ingenuity, too—a new square-toe sneaker put in an appearance. Still, deny it as he might, there is something in these clothes that speaks to the strife-torn times we live in, the sense that there is a war going on in the background of our daily lives, whether we admit it to ourselves or not.