Dries Van Noten Spring/Summer 2017RunwayVideo “We wanted a more brutal way of doing things,” declared Dries Van Noten, who must be the least brutalist designer on earth. “We just started to chop up garments and throw flower prints on. Everything contrasting!” But you got what he was talking about. Spontaneity, the energy of the chance combination, is a factor that is somehow playing in the background of fashion at the moment—and understandably so, at a time when everything has become so prescriptive and scripted. So why shouldn’t a long denim or cotton drill maxi skirt go with an intensely beaded high-necked Edwardian blouse with leg-of-mutton sleeves? Or a pair of cotton workman’s wide-leg jeans look great with a T-shirt and a rose-strewn corseted jacket on top? Dries Van Noten proved they do, very much so. The random clash is not really what Van Noten is about, though. One look—or rather long, astonished gaze—at the frozen “towers of flowers” installation on his runway proved that this show was months in the preparation. There they were, massive botanical arrangements, like the ones you might see in a Dutch Old Master painting, frozen in stacks of melting ice by Azuma Makoto, Van Noten’s friend and floral artist. What’s remarkable about Dries Van Noten is that he has the freedom to put exactly what he likes into a show, because he’s one of the most successful independent designers in the world. His collection can range from fairly basic black and white linen smocks and shorts for daywear (which it did), through a yellow rose chintz and black patent raincoat phase, to an evening section involving black balloon-sleeved off-the-shoulder blouses, big taffeta flounced skirts, and Edwardian beading in a totally unexpected share of azure blue. Beautiful, inclusive, and just a little bit weird it was. As the ice melted before their very eyes, a very good time was had by everyone lucky enough to be there.