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Enfant terrible Daryl van Wouw looks East for inspiration

After skipping the last AIFW to open his own store, Daryl van Wouw chose Chinese motifs, a series of sure-to-be-popular sweater dresses and a lantern dress for his new collection, which closed AIFW in front of record crowds.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 05-02-2009

The crowd outside Daryl Van Wouw, the closing event of Amsterdam International Fashion Week, was packed with celebrities and enormous.  So big that when Van Wouw himself turned up backstage to get in, the bouncer blocked him.  “I forgot my pass,” he says with his characteristic grin, “and they didn’t recognize me.”

A small but light-hearted kafuffle ensued after which Van Wouw, the enfant terrible of Amsterdam fashion, was granted entrance, and the show (albeit an hour late) began.

On offer was a street-wear collection that referenced Van Wouw’s usual fascination with the New York music scene but morphed it with the colours and symbols of traditional China.  Shanghai is the designer’s new home-away-from-home and where two years ago he chose to set up a factory.

In interviews Van Wouw has talked about how Chinese opera masks and music have inspired him.  He calls it an exciting place with a booming economy and where a creative tension between the west and the east flourishes.

The masks, traditional lanterns and good-luck cats were both literally and figuratively incorporated into the collection as motifs, graphics and silhouettes.

There were a lot of metallic and patterned leggings over short sweater dresses - combinations that were hinted at in previous Van Wouw collections, but which really came to life here.  The sweaters were emblazoned with the colours and geometric patterns of the masks and even the dresses, simpler and more floaty than a typical Van Wouw design, carried the looks seamlessly into the night.

The highlight, at least form an editorial perspective, was the bulbous red gown internally fitted with lanterns. Albeit a little gimmicky, the dress was lots of fun and served to underscore the collection’s theme with an added dose of graphic good humour.

The styling of the show, by Avantegarde editor, Venus Waterman, was superb.  Alien faces brushed in metallic hues with gold décolletages and a trio of chunky dreadlocked braids running down the backs of heads.  The looks were comfortable, street, androgynous and with a touch of outer-space.

Aside from the lantern dresses, this collection saw none of the fussy street-couture that garnered Van Wouw his reputation.  A lot of neat hem lines and relaxed fits suggest that his earlier experimentations have been pared back to a more wearable and of course commercially viable collection.

Which makes sense.  Last summer Van Wouw, perhaps the only truly commercially successful Dutch designer to exhibit at Amsterdam International Fashion Week, opened his first boutique on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. He has the financial backing of Suit Supply.

That commercial mindset was evident after the show where a guerilla store was set up next to the bar for fashion week invitees, on a high after days of celebration, could snatch up key items before they hit the stores.

Images: Van Wouw portrait and top three by Rachel Perry, bottom two courtesy of the designer.

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