It was the turn of the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten – a man known for a discreetly beautiful aesthetic that has earned him an unusually loyal clientele – to take to the Paris catwalk yesterday. For autumn-winter 2008, he offered up an homage to the work of the people whose job it is to craft fine clothing.
While the collection was in no way masquerading as haute couture – Van Noten is far too diffident a man to make such a claim – elaborate embroideries, a depth and contrast of colour that was the most vivid of the season to date, and wildly imaginative print (the likes of which only a very few in the industry might ever rival) seemed not far off it.
The loose-fitting smock dresses that are a Van Noten signature came this time in ever-fashionable black and emblazoned with citrus-hued sound waves and exuberant florals in every colour from brightest poppy to turquoise.
Longer and more diaphanous Fortuny-pleat chiffon gowns were stamped with delicate meadow flowers and ethnographic prints. The woman who wears Dries Van Noten will love to team an oversized, distressed, crochet-knit sweater with a pretty tiered skirt in violet organza; she will effortlessly layer sweaters over dresses or trousers in contrasting prints.
Here were precious pieces, the like of which one might normally expect to find only in a particularly discerning vintage store; garments which might be worn for seasons – and even years – to come without ever dating. The end result? Clothing made with love and designed to be worn by women who would love them in return.
A rather more confrontational look made its way down the Comme des Garcons catwalk the night before. The famously elusive designer Rei Kawakubo would say only that it was a celebration of "bad taste" which, as the legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, is always better than "no taste at all".
It takes quite a talent to create a collection that is, at least in places, blatantly satirical but that will still live up to the expectations of some of the most stylish women in the world. In the end, Kawakubo did just that.
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