Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Belgians are Coming!

I adore Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons. If we had to play favorites, they'd land side by side atop my list of designers. Though quite different in aesthetic, each of their styles is defined by innovation, cleanliness of line, and a play of color and shapes. No one can mix patterns--or make them look as luxe--as Dries. And Raf, at Jil Sander and now Christian Dior, has always been a master of silhouette. Their designs tend to be complicated but unfussy, as if the men had grown up in the company of Gothic spires and winding rivers, which they did.

Both designers hail from Belgium, a small country nestled among the Netherlands, Germany, and France. It is also the country where my father was born; whose fourth largest city shares its name with my hometown's most adorable corridor (Ghent), and the magical birthplace of the much adored Belgian waffle (which, like French fries, have been misattributed. Belgian waffles should really be known as Brussels waffles, though we've been calling them that since their stateside debut at the 1964 New York World's Fair. And of course, you know French fries are actually Belgian, right?)
That being said, it's a country worth exploration. The population is nearly halved by Dutch and French-speaking citizens, a political reality that has led to some tensions in recent years, resulting in laws that grant each of the regions autonomy and formal recognition (the country is home to the NATO headquarters and it's a country with not one but two official languages). You can find Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Flemish, Walloon, Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Modern architecture throughout the nation, which has been called the "cockpit of Europe" because of its central location and wide seacoast.

In a 2010 interview with Dazed Digital, Dries Van Notes said, "Working in fashion, the maelstrom of color, fabric and collections that one puts a lot of thought into, incites a reflex for a need for simplicity. This is why I find respite at home in Antwerp in my house and garden, where things are calm and relaxed." I think when one lives a life seeped in history, in the exploration of art and human creativity, you don't need much else. Your thoughts define you. Perhaps it is the elegant fold of a jacket that draws you to its design, the quiet, rather than the noise.

All collages are the work of Francesca Soroka.

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