The weight of emotion descends as the Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter 21 digital presentation begins. A model in a long white shirt steps onto a simple black stage with a bouquet of roses (like those you may see being thrown onto the stage to honour the performers), and the expression on her face speaks to us all—it’s been a tough year.
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Filmed in Van Noten’s home city of Antwerp, this is another example of digital fashion shows merging with performance art. The highlight placed on art and culture was also done by brands like Valentino for its Fall Winter 21 collection during Milan Fashion Week, which was staged live at the Piccolo Teatro of Milan.
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The dancers and models alike perform their hearts out, sometimes as subtle as just a loaded look, sometimes contorting and writhing with complete abandon to the slow burn beat of ‘Angel’ by Massive Attack. We feel the longing to lash out—of seeking connection, of being lost and uncertain—sentiments we cannot help but relate to. There is an elegance in an honest inelegance, and the authentic vulnerability of the entire cast was laid bare.
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This can equally be said for the collection itself. The hybridisation of classism with tropes of performance art costumes was done in a way that was emotional rather than thoughtful. Shimmering silver fringe dresses were worn under heavy black overcoats, tuxedo jackets and pants were trimmed in red and blue feather, and tailored shirts and skirts in stage-ready, head to toe red sequin shimmer. The clashing elements combined felt as much right as they felt wrong.