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Dries Van Noten Womenswear A/W12

The print master took a trip through the costume collection of the V&A and struck gold

That Dries Van Noten is a master of delving deep into other cultures and coming up with an enriching solution for the modern woman is no secret, judging by the amount of Dries that we saw on show goers. That Van Noten is able to gleam the mere surface of cultural aesthetics and still come up with gold is quite another feat. Quite literally, Van Noten took the 2-D surfaces of costume collections from Korea, China and Japan sourced at the Victoria & Albert Museum and printed them as flat forms on a desirable set of wardrobe cornerstone pieces. The prints were chopped up, spliced, diced and reconfigured so that you could vaguely suss out the origins but you never felt like you were being confronted with a literal pastiche of East Asian costume. “That's what we wanted to obtain - the beauty of the fabrics but on contemporary clothes,” explained Van Noten afterwards.

That's what we wanted to obtain - the beauty of the fabrics but on contemporary clothes

Sure enough, we admired the beauty of the Qing dynasty dragon curls on a heavy crepe skirts, the gold thread embroidered storks on a military jacket and the silk of a kimono placed on a structured white blazer.  You hung on the haunting voice of Bon Iver’s original studio version of the track 'Woods' as each ensemble came out, outdoing the preceding one in cleverness of print placement.  A dose of heavy collared coats and jackets, loosely-cut trousers and mannish blazers that hadn’t been touched by print in military green, navy and black were just the ticket to rein in the printed elements of this collection. That’s another trick up Van Noten’s sleeve as you came away thinking desirable it all was, whether you’re a print aficionado or not.

Dazed Digital: Tell us about the references for the collection. It seemed like you took quite a trip!
Dries Van Noten:
It's a lot of Chinese, a lot of Japanese and a lot of Korean. We looked at costumes from the V&A collection. We photographed them completely flat as garments. We printed these images on fabrics and then heat cut the fabric into contemporary clothes, by placing the shape of the kimonos and the dragon curls from China all in a different way so that sometimes the seam of the coat becomes the shape of the dress. We just completely replaced all the elements. That's what we wanted to obtain - the beauty of the fabrics but on contemporary clothes.
DD: Last season you also took photographic imagery and placed them on clothes.  Was this a continuation of that?
Dries Van Noten:
It's a continuation. It's the same fascination with what possibilities digital print can give you. When you have a photograph and print on to clothes, you go from 2D to 3D, making clothes from that process. In the end, you don't know whether it's Chinese, Korean, Japanese, modern, contemporary… you end up with big fields of colour and print and I found that very fascinating to do.

DD: What was the significance of the Bon Iver' Woods soundtrack?
Dries Van Noten:
I love it and I thought it was very appropriate for this time. It was a reflection of taking time and making peace with yourself.