“I wanted to do prints for men, and there are not so many prints that are believable for men, so camouflage, but in a different way, taking it out of its environment where it normally tends to disappear and making it really pop out,” said a beaming Dries Van Noten after his menswear show.
Camouflage, and military gear in general, is often a go to starting point for menswear designers. It’s a print that men feel comfortable wearing and it is socially acceptable attire. But honestly, it is difficult to disassociate this pattern with its armed forces roots. Its link to power and violence tends to linger no matter how it is presented. So hats off to Van Noten who, through determination and innovation, discovered a new sartorial path for this print to follow.
The designer worked, and reworked, the print. Switching up the classic kaki, green and beige colors for ones in russet or blush pink hues. He zoomed in and pulled away from the pattern, abstracting it enough on a pair of fluid pants or staple t-shirt that it only hinted at its heritage. Fabrics too had their role to play in taking the edge off of the camouflage. It’s hard to look threatening in a shiny nylon jacket or a semi sheer top.
Perhaps the military route wasn’t where Van Noten got his idea to explore the potency of camouflage. The introduction of a “hunter’s orange” into the ensembles and a number of padded vest that echoed those used by huntsmen while tracking their game turned the collection in the direction of outdoor sportsman rather than young recruit.
Truth be told the stiff quilted jackets and vests were inspired by the world of fencing. “I wanted to have a sportswear element but I didn’t want to go with the military, which was too evident with the camouflage,” said Van Noten. “Also fencing has the elegance that I was looking for,” he added.
The designer was able to transform the camouflage into chic and contemporary clothing that retained its masculine virility without a trace of underlying aggression. Now that is a feat which will continue to keep Van Noten’s collections on the top of the buyers' wish lists.