Many of the spring and summer 2012 men's collections that hit the runways of Milan and Paris over the last two weeks have referenced the sporting life, from leisure-time pursuits (such as Prada's golf moment) and the upcoming London Olympics (Vivienne Westwood Man, Missoni) to competitive sports of the upper class (Moncler Gamme Bleu's fencing-themed collection).
But according to Dries Van Noten, he didn't start out with the notion of creating a collection that drew inspiration from horse racing and the equestrian arts; that's just where he ended up. "We were doing all these technical things -- garment bonding and taping -- to these light silks and satins and I started thinking about circumstances in which a man might find them appropriate to wear, which lead to the idea of jockey's silks."
That result was a collection that included skinny-legged trousers with an extra-narrow ankle, Color-blocked blousons with deep V-shapes angling in from shoulders to navel, and barley-colored tweed jackets with leather detailing.
There was also a touch of nautical-preppy flair: navy blue blazers; a red-white-and-blue horizontal stripe pattern appearing on trousers, shirts and generously cut Bermuda shorts; parkas and windbreakers in a crumpled blue nylon so lightweight it billowed with every step as if buffeted by a sea breeze; and a narrow, vertical version of the tricolor stripe that was vaguely reminiscent of semaphore signals.
The collection was heavy on the outerwear pieces -- and heavy-handed on the technical details: Thick, black hot-melt adhesive tape (usually used on a garment's interior for waterproofing purposes) framed the exteriors of pockets, accented zippers and appeared as patches; even sandals could be seen sporting strips of the tape across the top of the foot; and garment bonding was used extensively. But it was all balanced out by the simple, crisp, white dress shirts, the one-piece jumpsuits in washed silk and the open-weave knit sweaters.
The result was a collection that managed to meld the elegance of nearly diaphanous luxury fabrics with the advances of technical outerwear, and it puts Van Noten squarely in Paris Fashion Week's winner's circle.
-- Adam Tschorn in Paris
Photos: Looks from the Dries Van Noten spring-summer 2012 runway collection shown during Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Michel Euler / Associated Press