June 28, 2024

The most emotional runway of the season, Dries Van Noten SS25

Paris, France – On the verge of tears. It is June 22, the day of Dries Van Noten’s namesake founder’s last fashion show. We arrive at the defunct factory in La Courneuve, outside of Paris, full of emotions; Anticipation, excitement and sadness. We are about to witness the 150th and last fashion show after a 38 year career of Van Noten, a part of modern fashion history. When entering the location, champagne is served and a large cube of screens in the middle of the hall shows a collage with extracts of the designer’s fashion highlights. Looking around the chatty crowd, it feels like we are entering a celebration rather than a farewell event. Amongst all the guests, which include Thom Browne, Glenn Martens, Ann Demeulemeester and, allegedly, Martin Margiela, Van Noten himself is shaking hands and chatting with friends, admirers and colleagues who have travelled from wide and far.

Suddenly monotone tones start playing in the background, the energy in the room shifts and hundreds of phones shoot in the air, filming how the curtains at the back of the room slowly open, revealing a large hall with graffiti on the walls and a in silver foil flakes covered runway in the center. The chatter is fading and the excitement for the show in the room is at its peak, but so is as well the realization that the moment has come. The moment of Van Noten’s last show. With this notion in the air, the guests are slowly making their way to the seats while marveling over the delicate floor of the catwalk.

The monotone tones get louder and the show starts under the words of David Bowie speaking about time, “One of the most complex human expressions” and “Ian Fish U.K. Heir” and end with the phrase “There is no beginning, no end” before switching to instrumental music mixed with “Sound and Vison” again by David Bowie. The words echoing through the show space feel like Van Noten is talking well to the audience that “Tonight is many things, but it is not a grand finale.” The philosophy of time looks at it being ongoing sequences of events where the past, present and future intertwine. Putting this concept on Van Noten’s departure we can understand that he tells us that this is only another event happening in the lifespan of the brand as well as in his personal life.

It is a concept that works as well applied on the cast chosen and the looks presented on the runway. While some of the models have been working with the brands since its early shows, their presence marks the passage of time, others who are walking their runway for the first time, hinting at the continuation of events. Alain Gossuin, who happens to have walked Van Noten’s first show back in 1991, wearing a double breasted dark blue coat and shirt which leave a glimpse on a pair of beige trousers, opens the show. The following 30 looks are held in mainly plain colored pieces in a variety of greys, dark blues and beiges worn by models that stand between the beginning of their career to others that have been in the business for several decades. This first half features different coats and a lot of tailoring with an impressive play of materials, mixing light and heavy, matt and shiny as well as flowy with stiff. Look 31 introduces new colors on the runway. The following looks range from deep purple, rich burgundy, over light pinks, greens, yellow and orange to many white pieces. They seem to have a more youthful design approach, with lighter, more flowy fabrics as well as playful material and print combinations. The collection seems to be lightening up. Look 69, worn by Rokas Kavaliauskas, is similar to the first look, a similarly long, black coat but this time with trousers that have a liquid gold optic.

For the finale of the show the models step all together onto the runway, without looking back, walking over the end of the catwalk under a standing ovation of the audience, where many individuals are wiping tears away while clapping and cheering. As soon as the last model has crossed the silver foil flaked floor people start leaving their seats running to the catwalk to get the best look at Dries Van Noten’s last bow. When he turns around, a curtain falls to the ground and a six-meter-wide disco ball is revealed, inviting the crowd to celebrate, to party deep into the night. This author, stunned processing of what has just happened, watches the audience move towards the disco ball, towards the party, absorbing the atmosphere. It is where he meets world renowned fashion critique Suzy Menkes, seemingly in the same emotions. “This was simply incredible” a phrase the both shared.

Dries Van Noten’s last show was indeed standing for a bright future and “how we continue to pursue our dreams knowing that, at some point, we can look back on them with love. Creating is about leaving something that lives on” as he stated. On the verge of tears but with a smile on our face we leave the venue in the early morning, happy and grateful having been able to be a part of this moment.