Of the many fashion collections to come out of this strange and unsettling year, Dries Van Noten’s fall winter ’21 collection may be among the most memorable. Not just because of the clothes themselves—though they were remarkably beautiful—but because of the way they were presented.
Many designers have opted for digitally-streamed runway shows that aim to provide a much-needed dose of escapism. Van Noten offered something else entirely, creating a six-minute short film that perfectly encapsulated the complicated, contradictory nature of our current emotional moment. Directed by the Danish fashion photographer Casper Sejersen and choreographed by Belgian contemporary dance choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the film saw an array of 46 models and dancers unveil the collection in jagged, poignant dance routines.
It felt at once restless, anxious, frightened, and also optimistic, resilient, and hopeful—feelings heightened by the thrumming beat of Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’, which soundtracked the film.
As for the clothes, they continued Van Noten’s long tradition of creating consistent, immaculately-crafted clothing that isn’t dictated by the whims of fashion trends. The collection opened with a billowy white shirt dress, and utilitarian, functional pieces featured heavily—loose-fitting paperbag trousers, sharp suiting. But the standouts were the high-drama eveningwear—navy blazers with a maribou feather-trim; glittery sequinned gowns in bold crimson and bubblegum pink, satin suiting with Van Noten’s signature graphic prints.
It felt at once restless, anxious, frightened, and also optimistic, resilient, and hopeful
Speaking after the collection was unveiled, Van Noten revealed that the last 12 months have shaken the very foundation of his approach to fashion. “Do we really want to go back at a certain moment to 50 girls in a row who are 16-, 18-years-old, with a perfect size?” he asked. “Anyway, for June and September I don’t want to even think about shows. I don’t know if I’m going to feel the need to do a fashion show. If we are going to do them, it’s not going to be in the same way as before. I think this time is over, and nobody has the need to see a circus like that again.” When this kind of creativity is the alternative, it’s difficult not to agree with him.