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Dries Van Noten Womenswear S/S12

The Belgian print King took a leap towards with image collaging, using digital photographs of the sea and flowers as colour blocks

Dries Van Noten has a knack for knowing when to change it up and from the last season's richness in texture and signature print, he wiped the slate clean and decided to go for a different approach. The simplicity came across in the opening passage of looks where 17th century etchings of landscapes were printed across shift dresses, shorts and shirts where the subject of the print did all the talking and where it was predominantly monochrome until flashes of fuchsia and teal came through.

Then slowly, Van Noten started to clash the etchings with digital photographs of the sea, flowers, using them as colour blocks to perhaps give a nod to the Tumblr-ing action of our times where a cornucopia of images find a home in one space. What was very mid-20th century though were the shapes which as the show progressed were certainly Cristobal Balenciaga inspired as a single ruffle adorned the front of trousers and skirts came with a flamenco-esque trail.  Dries Van Noten also openly collaborated with photographer James Reeve, who he came across at the fashion and photography festival in Hyères.  Reeve specialises in night time photography and his scenes of twinkling cityscapes and buildings reminded you of views from a plane, adding to the excitement when Reeve's work graced skirts, dresses, and tops.

Coloured crystals applied to a dress coat mirrored the lights of Reeve's photographs. It wasn't as straightforward as a clash between 21st century photography and mid-20h-century couture though.  Ultimately Van Noten turned out a collection with subtle nods to those Balenciaga curves along with a heap of wearable separates.  The last look perhaps best summed up Van Noten's couture nuanced vibe for the season - a dramatic fish tail skirt printed with Reeve's photograph combined with a crisp white swing-shaped biker jacket - utterly modern with an echo of the past.

Dazed Digital: This was a very different approach for you, using photographs?
Dries Van Noten:
I want to surprise myself every season.  Last season we did just an array of prints that this season we wanted to do something different.  
We wanted to use motifs that aren't meant for being printed on textiles, so we took a lot of 17th century botanical etchings. and also 21st century photographs and combine them in unexpected ways and used them as colour blocks.

DD: Do you mind going out of your comfort zone?  
Dries Van Noten:
I like to leave my comfort zone. I really have to shock myself. It's unusual for me to do a lot of black and white, and try to keep it not too colourful. That's what nice and that's what I like a bout it.  

DD: Can you tell us a little about the shapes?
Dries Van Noten:
The shapes in a very subtle way were inspired by 1950s couture but more specifically Spanish couture as opposed to French, so we had a lot of ruffles here and there to make it a little playful

DD: There was still an element of sportiness though in the shapes?
Dries Van Noten:
The casualness is something that we always have because at the end of the day, the clothes are made for today, not for women of the 1950s or 60s.