Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Belgian Avant-garde- Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester

The Western counterparts of Japanese avant-garde would have to be the Belgian designers, though the word 'avant-garde' and its connotations are somewhat of a cliche now. I think it simply means to offer a design perspective that differs from mainstream tastes and is hence refreshing. The Antwerp Six who graduated from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, of which DVN and Demeulemeester are the most prominent today, is a fine example. Those two happen to be among my favourite designers.

DVN's most outstanding works for me are the S/S 08, F/W 08 and S/S 09 collections. Each showcases a different side to the label. The S/S 08 collection is DVN's printmaking at its best. The use of bright, sumptuous colours and mixing of splashy floral prints create joyfulness and a tropical flavour. The unfussy cuts and drape of the garments bring out the full effect of the prints.

F/W 08, by contrast, shows a much darker and more decadent edge to DVN, both in the palette and treatment of materials. Its standout features include gold stitching, a glorious marbled print, knits intricately woven with many colours and necklaces made up of chunky bangles for a dramatic effect.

S/S 09 caught my eye with its clean lines and classy silhouettes. Bright colours like royal purple and tangerine and graphic checkerboard prints add contrast to the mainly monochrome palette. The hints of metallics in the 'bauble' necklaces and sequinned patches bring subtle glamour. All in all, a modern and polished collection that perfectly exemplifies DVN's easy elegance and his ability to make garments hang just right without appearing contrived.


Demeulemeester seems to be more consistent in her design aesthetic. The most interesting aspects of her work for me are the artsy, assymetrical cuts and juxtaposition of black and white. Her garments often have a raw, slightly savage quality but are curiously poetic at the same time. Her past two collections are great examples of classic Ann Demeulemeester.
The monochrome palette lends the collections a slight graphic quality that highlights the interesting cuts of the garments. The controlled volume is also very appealing.
I feel that both Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester display restraint and a good eye for styling and editing that's lacking in some other designers. Their clothes are also perenially stylish as they are not concerned with being trendy. Viewing their past collections, I spot things that I still want to wear today. That's what I like about both of them.

1 comment:

she said...

i like the monochrome palate of ann d.