Dries Van Noten Menswear A/W12

The Belgian designer put a new spin on his usual elegant tailoring, through the colourful work of Dutch graphic artists Gijs Frieling and Job Wouters

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Belgian designer Dries Van Noten showed two sides to his personality when taking over Paris' magnificent Grand Palais for his Autumn Winter 2012 collection. One half of the show was dedicated to what we know and love Van Noten for; his suave and elegant tailoring. Three and six button jackets, a slight 60s and 70s cut to the suits, oversized wool coats based on historic military garments, white shirts with double collars... plain and simple, but very effective.

"I thought it was a good idea to bring in that Frank Zappa silliness, but combined with a very elegant wardrobe... that's why we call it a psychedelic elegance"

The other half of the collection (not shown separately but woven into the DvN staple pieces) was a bit of a shock to the system, but in a joyful way. Along the second-floor catwalk, artists were busy decorating the walls, even as the models came down the runway. Massive flowers illuminated the room and big letters spelt out messages like 'Exactly Like Poets'. These decorations were also transferred on to the clothes, a bit like sartorial graffiti. We saw trousers, jackets and coats all bearing the work of Dutch artists Gijs Frieling and Job Wouters. Their murals and calligraphy brought a colourful touch to the collection - also helped by orange jeans and yellow coats - and surprised many.

"Some of the calligraphy are quotes from Oscar Wilde books. The murals feature swans, windows, birds, naked women swimming in ponds..."

But therein lies the beauty, of course. In a time when few designers abruptly turn around and astonish their audience, it's a refreshing attitude. Of course, it takes a designer who is secure enough in himself and his aesthetic to pull it off. And one that does it knowing that many of those most loud and outlandish pieces will live to see the sale rail. Still, many garments besides the tailoring and graphic pieces, are worth mentioning; great heavy knits, belted M65 jackets, painted denim jackets, slip-on loafers - some of them with spurs attached - and a bottle green velvet suit will keep Dries Van Noten fans busy next winter.

Dazed Digital: How did the murals and calligraphy collaboration come about?
Dries Van Noten:
I met Gijs and Job a while ago and I wanted to do something that was a little bit crazy - I wanted to use colour and prints. I thought it was a good idea to bring in that Frank Zappa silliness, but combined with a very elegant wardrobe... that's why we call it a psychedelic elegance!

DD: Were the paintings and prints done especially for you?
Dries Van Noten:
A few were, others were existing works. Some of the calligraphy are quotes from Oscar Wilde books. The murals feature swans, windows, birds, naked women swimming in ponds...

DD: There were also colour in the clothes, not just the motifs...
Dries Van Noten:
Yes, the over painted orange jeans and the yellow coats that are actually navy that we painted yellow! There was a lot of paint brush work in this collection...

DD: And what about the black coats that looked like fur...
Dries Van Noten:
Plastified mohair!

DD: Is there a piece that stands out?
Dries Van Noten:
The black coat towards the end, printed all over like a painting...

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