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Dries Van Noten chooses independent women for Paris catwalk playlist

If anyone can make the lyrics to Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women seem cerebral, it might be Dries Van Noten. The song was on the soundtrack to the designer’s autumn/winter 2015 show on the first day of Paris fashion week.

It was spliced together with other party playlist tracks including Rude Boy by Rihanna, Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott and and Blondie’s Rapture. The twist was that he used the acapella version for all these familiar floorfillers. This gave a sparse power to proceedings in the ornate hall of the Hotel de Ville.

Along with the sound of pop’s women throughout history, only the footsteps of models could be heard, although some of the front row – which included Jane Birkin and Kanye West – could not resist mouthing along to the words on Wednesday in the French capital.

Van Noten’s soundtrack is always a clue to the inspiration behind his collection. This season, with the homage to music’s independent women, the Belgian designer focused on “the kind of women I admire. They have guts, and wear the things that they want”.

He namechecked Birkin along with Isabella Blow and the late contributing editor to Italian Vogue, Anna Piaggi, describing them as “women in the past who were crazy about fashion, and had a nonchalance. I feel that is missing and I want to bring it back.”

The collection designed to do this would certainly appeal to icons of eclecticism, such as Piaggi, who could typically be seen sporting mismatched boots, blue hair, a pink fur stole and a miniature top hat.

Each look was piled high with ideas, vibrant colours and rich textures – starting with the opening outfit, which consisted of wide-legged khaki trousers, knee-length overcoat with goat hair collar, ruby red jacquard blouse and feathered organza neckpiece in chartreuse and violet.

With a long, voluminous silhouette dominating, those wide trousers continued and came printed with a supersized poppy pattern, while there were floor-length flared skirts, some in a quilted patchwork fabric and others in iridescent floral jacquard, teamed with transparent blouses.

If they sound like clothes only for true fashionistas, Van Noten’s strength is in translating these ideas to the real world. Pulled apart this was a happily commercial collection – the show notes even referenced a “grounded glamour”. While Piaggi (or Anna Dello Russo, arguably her successor, who sat in the audience here) would wear these clothes wholesale, as they are seen on the catwalk, shier and more retiring fashion editors were heard discussing which items they might buy to add a bit of eclectic spirit to a low-key wardrobe.

The embellished knits – some with gold beading, others with iridescent blue and green beading like the colours on beetles’ wings, or stripes of sparkly sequins – were high on the list, along with knee-length jacquard skirts in red and gold with a frill on the hip.

Van Noten said the richness in content and diverse mix of fabric came from collaborating with small mills. He said: “I got to play with things and see what we can do with fabrics. It was a joy for me to make this collection.”

His significant fanbase will no doubt enjoy wearing it. Van Noten has built up a brand that is sold in more than 400 stores worldwide, without advertising or, as is more common for luxury brands, a reliance on accessories.

With nearly 30 years in the fashion business, he has a cult following of fashion insiders as well consumers, who want pieces that will add something interesting to what they wear. Van Noten – with his artisanal take on luxury – can be relied on to provide that.

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