James Reeve Lights Up Dries Van Noten’s Skies

Published January 9, 2012

Dries Van Noten’s spring women’s collection combines slices of 19th-century book etchings, swaying palms, hothouse florals, and seascapes in a nod to Flamenco flounces and dramatic Balenciaga curves. But that’s not all. Embedded in the collection are James Reeve’s “Lightscapes,” the photographer’s sumptuous series of light after dark the designer discovered when he headed the jury at Hyères’ annual fashion and photography competition in 2010.   Reeve’s suggestive, nearly abstract image of a multi-story apartment building with windows glowing like a string of Christmas lights, the glowing band of London’s Albert Bridge, the illuminations of Las Vegas’s Circus Circus casino marquee, and the glittering wattage of a sprawling city, taken on treks from Beirut, to London, Las Vegas and Marseilles, spoke to Van Noten, a man with an unquenchable thirst for  pattern.   “His works impressed me from word go,” says the designer. Van Noten elegantly wove “Lightscapes” throughout his spring collection, from simple shirts to a cascading skirt. The results looks like jewels have been scattered over these dramatic, sweeping shapes, at once stark and opulent.

“We had already begun to look at various complementary and clashing prints, and seeing James’ work was a very perfect confirmation of how the idea could mature and flourish,” says Van Noten. “I have collaborated previously on shows, yet rarely on prints or on garments. It was a very fulfilling endeavor.”   The reclusive designer was so pleased with the results he asked Reeve to participate with him on a show which has taken his “Lightscapes,” and the clothes Van Noten made with them, on the road since November with stops in Vienna, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and now Paris at Joyce Gallery in the Palais Royale, where it will run through Jan. 26.   Reeve, whose photography has received awards from The National Portrait Gallery, The Observer, and The Fifty Crows Foundation, is an English photographer who currently lives in Marseille. His images range from reportage to portraiture and contemporary documentary projects, from boys flying kites around a crumbling tomb in Afghanistan to abandoned cars in the middle of beautiful nowheres across the United States. The fashion world is not his usual stomping ground. “The first time I saw the finished pieces was at the show in Paris (last September) and it was great seeing them all glide past me on the catwalk,” says Reeve. “I really like how Dries has treated the garments almost as canvases for the images, showing them in a very clear and uncompromised way.”

Rest assured, Van Noten remains as pattern-obsessed as ever. “What keeps me interested is, as they say, the six-million-dollar question. My passion burns as bright for prints today as ever,” he says. “I love the journeys of research and discovery their development takes me on. I see prints as less ‘decorative’ than many might, and more fundamental to a garment’s core.”   Currently Reeve is preparing a solo exhibition in Atlanta for February. After “Lightscapes,” he says he’s interested in what he calls “artistic landscape projects,” and has two new ones in the works. Neither of them are night studies, but the urge to stalk the sparkle persists. “I do find myself sneaking out in the dark hours to shoot a new Lightscape,” he admits. “So far I haven’t managed to put that one to bed yet.”