Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dries Van Noten: "Inspirations" (expo)

For anyone who has ever wondered where designers get their ideas, the current exhibition, "Inspirations," at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris is the perfect place to start. On until August 31, the work of Belgian fashion designer is on display. More so than a good selection of clothing from the designer's 30 year career, this is a show that provides a rare, behind-the-scenes peak at the early design concept stage faced by the designer.

For this exhibition, Dries Van Noten assembled all of the many elements that served as the point of departure for his women's and menswear collections. Those references include a kaleidoscope of film clips and floral patterns, music and models, classic couture and it's iconic couturiers, fabrics, foreign travel, historical figures, paintings, photos and pop culture. Within each setting-dispersed over two floors, the visitor sees how the original elements are transformed into contemporary fashion.

The reinterpreted dolly look is a simple vest with " rows of ruffled, ripped silk chiffon worn over a simple sarong skirt.

Dries Van Noten was part of Belgium's avant-garde movement of the 1990's. The "Belgian-Six" also included Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and Walter Von Beirendonck, all of whom are graduates of the famous, Royal Academy of Art in Antwerp. Van Noten first launched his brand with a menswear collection in 1986. Within a few years, he became known for the exotic mix of cultures infused in his womenswear shows.

The visitor's "voyage" begins at the entrance where block letters over the walls spell out his environmental influences and lead to the first display chocked with a summary of major trends of the 1980's. A few steps away, Christian Dior's New Look suit stands center stage and is surrounded by Van Noten's own version: a man's jacket with tucks tossed over a full shirt. Each setting is punctuated with a small screen showing the catwalk show from the original season.

Trompe l'oeil and 60s graphics serve as the basic of this collection.

From one setting to another, you slip into the designer's skin, impacted by works rich in imagery, history, attitude, texture and color. The energy of Picasso's Taurus is transformed into a heavily embroidery cotton top over trousers or even a short bolero worn with a photo print skirt for the Summer '12 collection. As a former educator, it was impressive to see this exercise in "Design Concepts" at it's best. Clearly, Van Noten was a passionate student of Costume History and a mighty fine researcher as well!

Africa adds to the mix in this collection.

I was also pleasantly surprised to discover his exploration of textile Surface Treatments beginning with vests embellished with ruffled, ripped chiffon that resembled feathers from afar, floral prints that peak from under broad brush strokes of transparent color, trompe l'oeil patterns or a mix of florals and metallic brocades in the same fabric.

Dresses from Christian Dior, Balenciaga and others serve as inspiration.

The exhibition represents a close collaboration between Dries Van Noten and the museum where, for his 2014 collections, he was inspired by several 19tg century prints. In addition to a sumptuous wardrobe of the designer's work, there is a fine art feast that includes masterpieces from Bronzino, Kees Van Dongen, Yves Klein, Francis Bacon, and Damien Hirst; film clips from Stanley Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange" and Jane Campion's "The Piano;" and dresses from Haute Couture masters Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Elsa Schiaparelli.

The vistor is taken on a journey to many lands throughout this exhibition.

For the doll enthusiast, this show represents a treasure trove of textile ideas from a simple blending of prints to the ripped chiffon vests cut from the same fabric as the dress.

We love the idea of painting over an existing floral with transparent dye.

Coming to Paris this summer? Consult the museum's website for more info.

A melting pot of cultures, colors and textures. Photo © DR courtesy of Musee des Arts Decoratifs.

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  1. WOW so much inspiration in these pics. Love the designs you created from them :)

  2. Thank you Chris. The exhibition was so inspiring, I saw it twice!


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