If someone would have whispered to me that I'd be within grabbing distance of Dries Van Noten so shortly after our first encounter, I probably would have arched an eyebrow to Cookie Lyon levels. But there we were, shaking hands before the opening of Van Noten's pivotal new "Inspirations" exhibit at MoMu Antwerp. Not a fashion retrospective in the classical sense, but a dark cabinet of wonders highlighting the art, music and designs that have inspired Van Noten and his feted collections.
After last year's kickstart at the Louvre's Les Arts Décoratifs, the expo has finally come home. And you just have to go see it!
What an hour with Dries Van Noten looks like? A cavalcade of the most incredible references, art history tidbits and general impeccable taste. "I refuse to use art as a backdrop", the designer firmly states, dressed in a sharp navy pinstripe suit. Not a hollow statement: perched throughout the exhibition space are pieces from the likes of Damien Hirst, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Ryan McGinley and even a spot of Rubens. Oh, and all of this is offset by the most exquisite vintage frocks from Balenciaga, Dior, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Claude Montana + a particularly striking 1952 gold Ye Olde Drag Race gown by Pierre Balmain. Not to mention a unique look into Van Noten's own rich archive. Whether you're a 'Driesciple' or not, "Inspirations" is a pure celebration and culmination of contemporary and classic art, in all its facets.
Imagine the slayage if Mama Ru rocked this one.
Throughout the pitch black exhibition space (16th century oil painting faces don't care much for light) a series of smells waft towards you. The work of Norwegian scientist and artist, Sissel Tolaas (whom we have met on a previous occasion, such fun). "Smell the walls!", Tolaas chirps, "they contain the scent of the earth and air". A Pina Bausch by Rosas video is accompanied by a spray of "the smell of dancers' sweat" - if you wave your hand through the right niche in the wall. Amazing.
A striking collaboration with artist David Michalek: 5 seconds clips of dancers stretched out to slow mo 10 minute videos.
Every corner is dedicated to a special theme, which ranges from punk and grunge to contemporary dance or specific countries. One of which being India, home to a team of several thousand Van Noten embroiderers. I remember being 18 in my village, amidst the famine of beauty. There was this channel called "Fashion TV", which existed solely of the most euro trash montages of fashion shows and Snejana Onopka throwing flawless shade at EVERYONE.
A truly terrible TV channel, in the best way possible. But Fashion TV had these amazing endless loops of fashion shows. Like the SS10 Dries Van Noten show, which had the most beautiful Indian ikat print suits. Cue me googling 'zigzaggy Dries suits' and being generally obsessed. So to hear the man himself talk about this exact print, 5 years on, is just beyond.
To give you a taste of what seemingly incongruous themes make perfect sense as the base of a Van Noten season, here are some actual collection inspirations:
- What does a drowning Victorian lady look like? (SS99)
- Eco warriors at a Barcelona airport clutching a laptop with one arm and breastfeeding a baby with the other. (SS15)
- Lucian Freud + Kurt Cobain. (SS13)
- Malcolm McLaren and Christian Dior's iconic bar jacket. (AW10)
McLaren created the AW10 DVN soundtrack, which played with the iconic bar jacket shape (an act of punk Dior rebellion due to the amount of fabric one jacket required during the post-war penury)
At the end of the tour, a second of silence sets off alarm clocks in my ear, so I stumble-blurt to Dries from a dark corner: "We've seen some of your amazing past collaborations here, are there any artists you'd still love to work with?" To which he replies: "You know, I don't really plan many of my collaborations, they just sort of happen! I might be at Frieze Art Fair and notice a piece, which then clicks with me later on." A smile and an awkward thank you later - still from the chasms of the safe darkness - he is whisked away in front of a camera and then up some stairs. Pretty sure Driesus just rose again.
DRIES VAN NOTEN "INSPIRATIONS"
13|02|2015 - 19|07|2015