Dries Van Noten Men Fall 2021

Dries Van Noten’s digital Autumn/Winter 2021-2022 menswear show is, like the past twelve months, a little bit stressful. A fixed camera trained on a patch of sky at dawn. We are looking up, past wide steps, at a grand stone entrance, a frame from which models materialize, from dawn to dusk, to take a couple of steps down to the viewer, before disappearing again. Where are we? The stone of the building seems institutional, grand, noble. But why have we been deprived of context? Are we inside that kind of institution? The anxiety swells as daylight appears, then fades, until finally the label’s beautiful evening wear heralds the close of the day. It is an all too familiar feeling of confinement. 

A significant proportion of the collection reckons with the familiar compromises of this confinement. To its credit, Dries does not attempt the contrived undergarment positivity present in other menswear collections this season (see Fendi; Prada). Even so, some will view the blended work/casual pieces with the weary recognition of familiar asylum uniforms. We have here boyfriend sweatshirts, office shirts stretched to dress length (the Zoom surprise), oversized friar’s hoodies and loafers in a swollen leather that gives them the look of downmarket Christmas gifts.      

It is perhaps telling, however, that the most groomish look, an oversized knitwear cardigan and matching shorts, is complemented by one of the fixtures of the collection, mid-calf length knit socks. The effect is of a cut or (rather sexily) exploded trouser, a casual at-home fixture destroyed in a peal of rage or inspiration. 

Because this is a hopeful show, too. The instrumental soundtrack—overlapping sounds of a clock, metronome, and the desperate banging of a captive—by Belgians Thierry de Mey and Peter Vermeersch is entitled “Eerste Beweging:” first movement (new beginning?). Against darkened skies the models appear before the viewer in shadow, almost as Platonic forms, creatures who still move in the outside world, who see truth. Divine Uber delivery-drivers? We will emerge one day, this show seems to say. And when we do, we have work to do, a world to fix. And we’ll do it in beautiful tailoring. 

gyungyun’s take: 

Dries fans will snap up the dressier jackets and trousers—cinctured beautifully by a smart chain and circle buckle belt—in the familiar varsity colours of his AW collections, but in much wider cut and higher waist than last year. These are contrasted in the collection with a gorgeous cropped trouser, styled brilliantly with oversized tops and coats. The leather version is a must buy

The miserly Uncle in us is tantalized by the fabric per dollar proposition of the generously cut denim in this collection, as well as the utility of pairing with chunkier jackets. Their flowing, straight tailoring provides the additional benefit of moving beyond the ‘90s ( industry) or ‘70s (Gucci) silhouettes. A buy.

Dries collectors will snap up the lovely zodiac embroidered jackets, no matter their inexplicable presence in this show. The turtlenecks, of lovely print and pattern oughtn’t be seen solely as a gesture to at-home wear. Diehards will recognize them as a fundamental part of his explorations of layering and draping. See for example, AW 16-17. Old boys will also have their eye on the black leather/rubber hybrids, in both boot and lace-up versions, both buys, and a mainstay of the gyungyun wardrobe labyrinth since the mid 2000s. 

The leather loafers, a big part of the collection, were initially rated a pass. Jonathan Anderson has been doing versions of these the last couple years. On closer examination, they are, as ever, intelligent and desirable. Skip the rubber soled version and buy the elegant leather split sole, with a practical elasticated ankle and cool chunky heel tab. We would still pass on the pillow bags, however, which are currently in favour at Lanvin and Bottega Veneta. The mixed leather finish backpack and tote, reminiscent of the “giant pocket” trench from Lagerfeld’s SS19 Fendi (womenswear) show, are the outstanding accessories.  

Gyungyun tends to wait until sales on the casual art-inspired print pieces. Unfortunately, these tend to be copied quickly and quite explicitly by other labels, in some cases the inspiration for whole labels, and are heavily inventoried by Western online merchants who have picked up and popularised Dries in the last few years. This comes at the expense of the suiting, which rarely translates well to third party merchant models and styling. A shame, since there is no better value casual suiting for originality, fabric, and price in ready to wear. 

Dries is the anti-”drop” (“dump” as our house style manual would have it) label. It is only by handling in-person the fabric, construction, and more discreet prints from Dries that one can appreciate the house’s profound singularity, its emphasis on merit beyond the algorithmic winners of a phone screen, and, by extension, the achievements of this season. Here’s hoping for an in-person examination.    


The upheaval of the runway calendar would seem to suit Hedi Slimane. The glamour and theatre of his tightly focused runway shows, known for their near martial discipline in look and organization (no cameras, please!) only just contain the obsessive collector’s impulse: to be left alone alone with their art. “Have a look by all means” they seem to say, “But don’t touch that. Actually, you know…maybe we shouldn’t…” 

His men’s clothes, brilliant snapshots of Western pop subcultures, are products of a similar privacy, recursive variations of the antiquarian’s most cherished possessions. Critics and consumers split over this intimacy: on the one hand devoted followers with enough pride in “getting it” to buy clothes that don’t look good on most of them. On the other, observers possessing greater familiarity with the references on which the collections are based, who encounter the single-mindedness of Slimane’s work with some embarrassment, like opening the door to the room that wasn’t the bathroom and finding the secret pursuits of an acquaintance. All rather his thing, isn’t it? 

Of his early poetry Auden wrote: “…my sacred world was autistic, that is to say, I had no wish to share it with others nor could I have done so.” The genius of Slimane is his combination of this uncompromising ethos—or its very packaging—with sales.

The imposed film debuts of 2021 collections are a logical format for the controlled and personal inspirations of Slimane’s work, and indeed, his last two collections have deepened, if possible, the viewer’s immersion in Slimane’s clothes as period pieces. Traditional runway perspective has been replaced, in these films focused on youth, with oblique camera angles and fleeting images of the models, suggesting the greedy adolescent desire for both visibility and anonymity.    

“Teen Knight Poem,” Slimane’s winter 2021 collection for Celine, follows spring’s “The Dancing Kid,” also digital, and the two together mark a shift, in contrast to Slimane’s first three men’s collections for the label, to more youthful and casual designs. Spring was goodbye for now to the streetwise artist boy-men of Slimane’s physical runways, whose fitted, pointy hips we viewed frontally, as a besotted fan might gaze at their indie rocker idol. Oh, that ahem, belt! Instead we have a digital presentation with drone footage, the methods and looks signaling Slimane’s reckoning with the new app idols. Less formal, improvised, unabashedly revealing and yet profoundly, sexily, inexperienced.

It is something of a surprise given his long relationship with fashion and film that Slimane’s winter collection is unwilling to leave the catwalk behind; in this case, the dramatic catwalk of the sixteenth-century gothic Château de Chambord. The setting, between the pointed arches of the Chateau is typically striking, and a tantalizing context for one of Slimane’s deep archival dives. Would he joust head-on with the present standard-bearer for fashion gothic, Sarah Burton’s McQueen, whose structured tailoring, historical fabrics, and crusading leather delights in sinister formality? 

Not quite. Uncharacteristically, the clothes and styling were something of a mash-up, perhaps because the term “teen,” if it meant anything at all in the sixteenth-century, probably didn’t mean what it does today. Rather than teenagers from the Middle Ages, we are presented with what a jock in an American high school of the last 30 years might call a “Goth.” In this case, a Curehead. Blown out and coloured hair, lots of eyeshadow, maximalist jewelery, and layers of boyfriend outerwear covering androgynous shirts and knitwear. The result is a show which, instead of offering a single focused look, gives us either several or a preposterously specific one, of a 1980s adolescent on holiday visiting a castle, waiting to get back to the hotel.

Slimane diehards will grieve at the sloppiness that results from the unlikely combination of contemporary streetwear culture and the two types of Gothic on display here. Military references are confused: desirable chainmail influenced pants, jackets and jewelry; but what’s with the camouflage? Logos, as they tend to do, sit uneasily in the collection. We have both Gothic script t-shirts and Slimane’s all-caps sans serif “CELINE” logo. Slim, caped ecclesiastical figures in all black will titillate the Hedi old-guard as much as the hoodied, logoed, denim jacket and sneakers model will plunge them into despair. 

The inconsistencies matter because at his best Slimane is the master of encyclopaedic lateness. His interpretations of period clothing for Celine, from fit to fabric to deliciously weird looking models, sell the idea that another time and place would have suited us better than this one. He offered a wardrobe for adolescent longing. This show, however, gives us a great deal of what a typical and unadventurous teen has always uncomfortably worn. Instead of a remedy or conduit for teenage angst, contemporary teen culture is livestreamed for us. Rather than a creative fan sharing an antique labour of love, Slimane has simply opened his phone camera.  

There are here fewer of the explosive Hedi moments, when the consumer sees their proper selves in the runway model and, by extension, must have every piece of a look. The Winter 21 model—in cape, hoodie, logo beanie, and jeans, is much more an a´ la carte proposition.

gyun gyun’s take:

A confused story means fewer hits. But as ever, Slimane doesn’t hit singles. These are the home runs:

BUY: the opening look, in toto

Chainmail pieces!: metallic trousers; long jackets esp. metallic lapelled coat ; the (thin) jewelry

Frilled shirts +/- fitted knitwear

All the leather footwear–an excellent and attractive departure from slim/angular shapes of H.S.’s Celine.