In the aftermath of its splashy Paris Fashion Week opening at the Les Arts Décoratifs, the 'Dries Van Noten - Inspirations' exhibition is still creating a buzz in the industry. Curated by Pamela Golbin, one of France's premier fashion historians, the first exhibit ever staged by the Belgian designer is unique in both its content scope and reach.
Not only is this the first time the Dries Van Noten archives have gone on public display since the company's founding in 1986, but the designer has also liberally added historical fashion costumes from the well-stocked coffers of Les Arts Décoratifs itself, adding a rich layer of visual stimulation and factoid fun.
The exhibition begins with Van Noten's student days at Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the famed school that has produced some of fashion's biggest gems including Raf Simons, Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester. 1980s bomber jackets by Gianni Versace, lamé dresses by Thierry Mugler and edgy layers by Yohji Yamamoto are all featured as key looks that Van Noten was obsessed with during his college years. Also included are three pieces from his 1980 graduate collection, a highly accomplished exercise that pointed to this designer's budding talent.
From there, a fashion extravaganza unfolds according to the themes that have informed the designer's work over the years. Gold, Butterflies, The Kiss, Graphic, Bollywood, and Orientalism are just a few of the countless alcoves that are packed with relating historical costumes, as well as the contemporary Van Noten design that corresponds to both. Standouts include the Gold section that features not only a Chanel boucle suit from 1967 and a Thierry Mugler lamé dress from 1978, but also a piece crusted in rich passamaneria braid from the Balkans in 1909 and Van Noten's own lamé dress from 2006.
Such visual candy is offered in every corner of this beautifully detailed and extensively researched exhibition. The fashion offering is exhaustive here, but never exhausting. On the contrary, this is one show that will leave its viewers completely re-energized.