Stepping into the Hôtel de Guise on rue de l’Université where Dries Van Noten was hosting appointments this season was like jumping down a rabbit hole. Inspired by the wunderkammer created by the Italian architect Carlo Mollino in Turin, Van Noten had decked out the derelict maison de maître from 1728 – where he also shot the film for his men’s collection last month – like a decadent cabinet of curiosities, all dark and sumptuous. It was a fitting frame for his women’s collection, which had all those characteristics. “In those rooms,” Van Noten said, referring to Mollino’s galleries. “He had all these fantastic portraits of eroticised women, which were small Polaroids he did in the ’70s and ’80s. What was so beautiful was that those women never became objects. They were very, very strong. That was the starting point of the collection: a passionate, erotic side. And quite Italian!”
Dries Van Noten launched a fragrance and beauty line
This season wasn’t only about clothes for Dries Van Noten. He used the occasion to debut his perfume and beauty line including no less than 10 fragrances, 30 lipsticks, and things like a lip brush, a travel pouch, a soap, and a hand cream. A long-awaited result of the 2018 acquisition of his brand by Puig – the Spanish fragrance and fashion company – it had taken Van Noten over two years to develop in collaboration with so-called noses, who visited his stately home and gardens outside Antwerp. “There, I could really explain how I think and work,” the designer said, “Like how I’ll have a neon pink rose next to a more sophisticated colour.” It created a fragrance line founded in contrasts: “It’s normally a clash between two elements that are not meant to go together like Mint and Iris, or Rose and Pepper,” Van Noten explained. His current favourite? “Cannabis and patchouli.”
The collection went hand-in-hand with the perfumes
Van Noten’s perfumes come in refillable flacons – wrapped in upcycled pouches and sustainable packaging – which mix contrasting materials the same way the fragrances mix scents. Some bottles are glass with wood, others glass with porcelain, and so on. That idea echoed his autumn/winter 2022 collection. Immortalised in film by Casper Sejersen, it took inspiration from Mollino and the Italian singer Mina in a sumptuous and decadent medley of textures and patterns – porcelain, lacquer, cow, giraffe, leopard, crocodile, snake – collaged on eveningwear silhouettes, which occasionally infiltrated the sportswear wardrobe. Everywhere you looked, something was covered in crystals, flocked in ponyskin (i.e. cow), or shingled in laser-cut leather sequins.
It was super decadent
The collection – and its matching perfume and beauty line – was a cornucopia of richness, which had a certain whiff of the 1920s and ’30s to it. “I always try to reflect a little bit of what’s happening in the world. Sometimes I go with it and sometimes I react against it. I talk about dreams,” Van Noten said, paraphrasing a quote from Marcello Mastroianni’s Nostalgia del Future. “Mastroianni says that lost paradise is not the best paradise, but it’s the paradise of the future, which we still have to encounter. He ends by saying that the dream is to stay forever young.” Maybe one of Van Voten’s 30 lipsticks will come in handy for that. On the vintage mannequins that graced the Hôtel de Guise, the make-up artist Lucy Bridge had consistently painted the upper lip in a darker shade than the lower lip, creating a decadent contrast.
Van Noten made porcelain shoes
As if Van Noten’s beauty line didn’t add enough new things to the shopping list, he also went all-out on accessories and costume jewellery, adorning outfits with shell pendants, butterfly chokers, and huge crystal pieces. (Asked if he’d ever considered making fine jewellery, he said his taste for large statement pieces would make that very costly.) In shoes, he made a handbag and a pair of mules look like real porcelain by printing Delft onto leather, lacquering it and giving it a craquelure effect that looked like aged vases.