Gender roles as a theme has been a major story during the menswear shows for the past week and some change. From the mule stomping, headscarf-wearing boys at J.W. Anderson’s show in London, to Prada’s ‘all things considered equal’ show, both a men and womenswear outing in Milan, to the alchemical melding of sexes at Raf Simons just a day ago, that ubiquitous question of ‘what is masculinity?’ should feel like a bore by now. But when you have Dries Van Noten take a whack at that philosophical puzzle, resistance marches along. He used his greatest powers – his masterful eye for color, the adventurous tailoring, to breath new life into one of masculinity’s most identifiable symbols – camouflage.
Not a garment was safe of the treatment. Camo pants appeared, naturally, but these were riding pants; it covered an entire dinner jacket in a blown up pixelated print, was barely there in a camo green nylon trench, and one of the best, most structured and colorful pieces, in a camo contrast print on a velcro-snap moto jacket. It was an effective ballast, but there was much more to this collection than the versatility of the camo (Van Noted even created it out of dyed lace – talk about gender bending). The entire effort was a treasure trove of ideas. There was plenty of color-blocking and lots of it with his signature color, which can only be called ‘DVN Orange’ by this point and he even managed to throw iridescent suits in the mix for good measure.
Protection and penetration was touched upon as well, a beautiful juxtaposition in Van Noten’s hands. A heavily structured white velcro jacket was kept unstrapped to reveal a white sheer tuxedo shirt underneath; white quilted jackets and tops were pieced together like space-age cuirasses, often followed by plenty of sheer. Completely see-through silk organza plaids were titillating enough on a long and loose button up with matching shorts, but it reached a climactic point with the pieces done up in intricate lace.
Simons has always excavated the codes of masculinity and he did so again yesterday, Van Noten explored its nooks and crannies through form and color today, and now – just one Belgian left. Your move Ann Demeulemeester.