How the modern-day master reinvented the Flemish tapestry.
Dries Van Noten’s menswear collection was a prelude to those hot summer nights we’re all aching for. The models walked against a wall of car lights, wearing light cotton trenches and silver tees, quickly followed by a blooming array of khakis and leafy prints, only to fade out with a few black laqué pieces and midnight blue ensembles. The sun was setting on a wild garden, and Dries invited us to enjoy the greenery from the shadows.
Though the designer looked at the English Arts and Crafts movement as a starting point for the construction, the inspiration for the prints was found closer to home – Dries dived into the art of Flemish tapestries. A perfect fit for the designer who loves to play with craftsmanship and tradition; and an opportunity for us to have a closer look at the heritage of our region.
Centred around Brussels, where almost a quarter of the entire population was employed in manufacturing, Flemish tapestries gained international recognition in the 15th and 16th Century. Most works from this period have remained anonymous, yet are still considered today the highest art of the tapestry, as they did not yet seek to imitate paintings.
The ‘mobile frescos of the north’ were highly coveted by the great princes of European courts, religious leaders and nobility. Symbols of status and wealth, their value can be compared to that of a jetfighter today. It is this period of creative wealth that Dries has sought to bring back to life through his SS17 collection.
Dries took particular interest in the Millefleurs, a specific subgenre that was most popular around 1400-1550. Decorated with an overflow of flowers, plants and branches, sprinkled over a dark blue background, Millefleurs feel more abstract than their figurative counterparts. The flora and fauna come together to form a mesmerising and surrealistic verdure.
Our modern-day master twisted and transformed the images. Scattered over various menswear staples – a practical raincoat, a sturdy vest or a silk shirt – the intricate drawings become abstract designs. From afar, the prints can be mistaken for a camouflage. Coming closer, the garments reveal a trompe l’oeil effect. Dries chose to preserve the texture of the original tapestry in the print. The result is a game of touch, each fabric carries an imprint of that medieval textile.
Dries chose to stay true to the colours of the tapestries as they exist today. Even the best preserved specimens have not been saved from the ultraviolet rays of sunlight, which transformed the original colours. What remains is a shadow of the original vividness, and green colours have turned blueish, giving the winter gardens a mystical aura.
Over 500 years ago, the Millefleurs tapestries were designed to offer a garden-view on dead-cold winter nights. This summer, they’ll serve as fitting company to long and hot terrace-evenings, whether it’s a Brussels maple or a Miami palm tree we rest our eyes upon.