Real, authentic, anti-trend. All season long we’ve been rooting around for adjectives to describe fashion’s new direction. After years of made-for-Instagram ostentation, designers have come around to Dries Van Noten’s way of doing things. The Belgian designer has cultivated a loyal client base over the decades with inventive clothes that retain their grip on reality. Just don’t mistake them for normal. “Familiar-unfamiliar and unfamiliar-familiar” was how he described his starting point for spring. “Things that you really know but done in a completely upside-down, inside-out, special, strange way.”

Van Noten’s instinct to flip the script resonates. The world definitely feels upside down at the moment, but he’s less a polemical designer than a process-oriented one. As his collections progress, it can feel like he’s working his way through a puzzle, sifting through pieces to figure out which ones match and which clash yet still make sense together.

Today’s puzzle pieces came from trad menswear—shirt stripes and khakis, with some denim tossed in the mix—and lawn sports like tennis, cricket, and rugby. Van Noten made those familiars unfamiliar by adding a feminine touch. For the first exit, shirt stripes turned up on a bralette worn with a generously cut camel coat and knee-length shorts. On other looks, khaki cargo pants morphed into a long wrap skirt, and an enlarged schoolboy blazer was paired with a shirtdress covered in delicate see-through paillettes. Among the sports references, the rugby stripes were especially distinctive; he cut them into polo shirts that wrapped around the torso and T-shirts that slouched off one shoulder, as real as it gets but still unexpected.

Backstage Van Noten said the collection was a companion piece to his men’s show in June, where he set out to redefine masculinity for a younger generation—cue the sequined basketball shorts. Women have been flirting with menswear essentials for decades, so it’s harder to surprise in this direction, but there were plenty of delights. Tops among them: the black duster coat, white bra top, and black trousers with densely embellished tuxedo stripes down the sides.

This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.

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