Dries Van Noten is Concerned with Nature and Raves for FW23

The Belgian designer has created a collection based on the surrealism of nature as well as the euphoria of the rave scene

For Autumn 2023, Dries Van Noten is exploring human connection through two distinct channels: our inherent connection to the natural environment as humans, as well as rave culture, a culture that focuses on humans connecting with each other à la “peace, love, unity.” Van Noten argues that rave culture and nature may have more in common than one would assume, exploring the overlap in the surrealism of nature as well as the surreal euphoria that is commonly associated with rave scenes. The show took place in a bare-boned industrial setting that is fit for a warehouse rave, with a live performance from Belgian music-duo Lander & Aidaan, who crafted an original composition for the show that blended house sounds with echoes of jazz.

Right off the bat, the tailoring is aligned with the zeitgeist: an oversized, relaxed fit. Blazers are almost protective looking, while tailored trousers are left relaxed throughout the leg, yet sit high and closer to the body on the waist, with such an exaggerated high-rise that they are worn with a stack of three belts. Delicate shirting has been elongated in the arms, with sleeves hanging low enough to completely cloak the models’ hands. 

What may just have been the collection’s most standout item was one of the more understated pieces; the olive green hunting jacket in look 42. The jacket is, at a glance, classic in its silhouette, a jacket with roots in traditional menswear that can (and should be) worn everywhere. Yet upon further exploration, the jacket has a strap across the chest in an almost restricted manner, cargo pockets are applied all over the jacket from the body to sleeves, and the lower portion of the sleeves have belts that allow the wearer to choose how restricted they would like to wear them. To be or not to be: restricted. This jacket is the perfect example of a carefully minded garment by Van Noten — it is close enough to tradition that it will always be timeless, yet just subverted enough that it shows that the wearer cares about looking complex.

The inspiration of flora and fauna has given the Belgian designer full reins to use his signature favorite floral prints, inspired by the research of German naturalist and geographer, Alexander von Humboldt. These floral prints have been shown alongside classic trippy-esque prints such as a stretched and distorted rendition of a checkerboard print. Where the paths of rave and nature intersect in the surfaces of garments is most prevalent in the screenprinted organic forms that are sprawled across jackets, trousers, and complete suits. Screenprinting is a technique that is a favorite of the underground, in its ability to create quick posters and tees, yet here it’s employed to plaster natural ebbing forms across luxurious garments.

Another moment where this overlap of rave and nature intersect is in the embellishments throughout the collection; elaborately delicate forms that have been rendered in hardy materials. A standout wool overcoat has been embellished with intricate chainwork, depicting natural references to overgrown vines while appearing almost industrial due to their metal sheen. Similarly, delicate sheer shirts have been adorned with a mish mash of large rhinestones and miniature beads in a technicolor application.

What makes a Dries Van Noten so curatorial is that references are references – not absolutes. Van Noten understands that design doesn’t have to be explicit to be understood; rave culture can be referenced without being overtly costumed — he is a master of this sensibility. The collection is inspired by this umbrella idea of connection, that is explored through the two lenses of rave and nature. This broadness that Van Noten gives himself allows his collections to never be limited by concept. What is most consistent about a Dries Van Noten collection is that it is consistently good clothing, that has never relied on gimmicks to work.

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