April 27, 2024

End of an Era: Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten, the celebrated designer and founder of his eponymous label, has officially stepped down as the Chief Creative Officer after an illustrious career of 38 years. His final show, showcasing the Fall Winter 2024 men’s collection, will be held in Paris this June. This event will mark the end of an era and will be a tribute to his visionary contributions to the fashion world.

“I have been preparing for this moment for a while, and I feel it’s time to leave room for a new generation of talents to bring their vision to the brand.” Van Notes highlights in his open letter to the public, accompanied by an illustration of him and his loyal companion by Richard Haines.

Hailing from a family of tailors in Belgium, Van Noten is a remarkable member of the Antwerp Six collective and a graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. In 1986, he began his career with menswear and expanded three years later by opening his flagship store in his hometown, famously known as Het Modepaleis.

The Belgian designer has a unique flair for blending eclectic elements with clever allusions. His signature style incorporates innovative prints, bold colours, luxurious fabrics, and exotic details. This eccentric combination is inspired by art, design, travel and culture and has become synonymous with the brand’s identity. His mastery of colour play is incomparable, a skill that places him at the forefront of the fashion industry. In this regard, he is to fashion what Monet was to art. He is also acclaimed for his ingenious approach to crafting his own rules, symphonies, and creative rhythm. Van Noten’s expertise lies in his ability to seamlessly merge functional clothing with an artistic approach, creating clothing that is nothing short of wearable art.

Dries Van Notes Men’s Spring/Summer 19 collection, shot by PATRICE STABLE.

Van Noten competes with nobody but himself, relentlessly pursuing authentic beauty with every passing season. His designs possess unparalleled originality, adding substantial value to his brand. Each of his pieces has a certain element of spontaneity and resultantly, his collections are consistently refreshing and never succumb to the trap of repetition.

The majority of his collections draw inspiration from various cultures, emerging in a striking layering of cultural fusion. All his crafted pieces evoke emotions that are directly translated on the runway. When Dries styles an entire look together, his designs come to life, narrating a poetic story. The atmosphere on the runway reveals a tantalising glimpse into his creative mind, delivering an invigorating experience for the viewers.

Van Noten is not just a passionate designer but also a keen horticulturist. He frequently embarks on garden tours with Ann Demeulemeester, another notable Antwerp Six member who has since retired from her label. Van Noten’s iconic use of colourful textiles and styles was inspired by the flowers that adorn his home outside Antwerp. He incorporated plants and flowers from his picturesque garden into his Fall Winter 2019 Collection, producing an unforgettable synthesis between fashion and nature.

Dries Van Notes Spring/Summer 23 collection, STYLE DU MONDE.

The brand gained a cult following as each collection catered to different aesthetics, ensuring there was something for every kind of individual. When you spot a DVN piece, it doesn’t intimidate you. Instead, you immediately think to yourself, “I would definitely wear that.”

Being an independent thinker, Noten has stayed true to his distinct style and has never followed the trends of the commercial world. He refuses to be swayed by the allure of logo mania or the fleeting popularity of the IT bag. This is what sets him apart, and he remains unwavering in his commitment to his unique vision. You won’t notice publicity gimmicks with celebrities walking for the brand; instead, models accentuate the clothes, embodying pure fashion and beauty.

In 2018, the Belgian fashion house sold a majority stake to Puig, a family-owned Spanish fashion and fragrance conglomerate with a portfolio of impressive brands such as Paco Rabanne, Carolina Herrera, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Nina Ricci. The purpose of this sale was to ensure the longevity of the brand. Both companies released a joint statementdeclaring, “Puig will be the majority owner alongside Dries, who remains, over the long term, a significant minority shareholder.” Furthermore, Dries Van Noten will continue to serve as the chief creative officer and chairman of the board. This partnership enabled the fashion brand to expand its team and diversify its product offerings, including beauty and fragrance. The Spanish company’s financial reports for 2023 revealed that Dries Van Noten was the company’s fastest-growing niche brand.

During an interview with The Talks, Dries emphasised the importance of remaining dedicated to creating prêt-à-porter rather than couture. He believes that if you want to create dreams, you make haute couture, but he prefers to create designs that reflect reality instead of theory. He wants his designs to be accessible to people who appreciate his work.

Dries Van Noten crafts clothes for new-age women who have versatile roles in society. The brand’s Autumn Winter 2024 collection had aspects of cerebral undertones to it, while the invitation made a bold statement featuring a lock of human hair, symbolising a woman fearlessly reinventing herself by cutting her own fringe. Back in 1996, for his Spring Summer womenswear show, real women with no prior modelling experience walked the runway—women who were perfect with their imperfections. Noten cast individuals who represented a realistic visual of women without considering their age, size, or height, portraying that there is no ideal woman; rather, every woman is ideal. It can be said that since the early stages of his career, the fashion house has made a conscious effort to strengthen female fortitude.

Dries Van Notes Fall/Winter 96/97 collection, shot by MARLEEN DANIELS.

Apart from his work as a decorated designer and avid gardener, Dries also advocates for sustainability. He firmly believes in building a brand that follows the principles of slow fashion. In 2020, Van Noten and other designers co-wrote an open letter addressing the need to create a more sustainable approach to production by fixing the seasonal shopping calendar.

Going against the grain, the brand takes a different approach to fashion than its counterparts by showcasing a limited number of seasonal collections and rejecting the concept of pre-collections. Reducing the frequency of collections per year can lead to reduced production, fewer industry-related travels and a smaller carbon footprint.

The fashion industry is dynamic and ever-evolving. Today, fashion has a completely different meaning than it did five years ago. However, one thing never goes out of style, and that is the concept of true style itself. Dries is a staunch believer of this ageless notion.

He is recognised for his nonconformist approach to designing collections that defy current trends. Subsequently, the clothing he creates are timeless masterpieces that can be worn and adored for a lifetime without losing its charm. Noten often remarks that the clothes he designed in the 90s are still wearable and relevant today. It is indisputable that sustainability has been a longstanding practice for the designer since the inception of his career. It is not merely a trend for him but a genuine commitment. The brand actively implements sustainability as a core value. Furthermore, the label is famed for its exclusive utilisation of faux fur created from ethical materials.

Dries Van Notes Spring/Summer 20 collection, shot by MATHIEU RIDELLE.

At this stage, Dries wants to focus on exploring his gardening passion during his well- deserved time off, something the fashion system restricts.“After a career of all these years, you never can take six months off, or even two months off,” he previously stated. “I think it’s the dream of every designer to just, at a certain moment, be able to skip one season.”

Although retiring, Noten will remain involved with his beloved brand. His trusted team will design the upcoming women’s Spring Summer 2025 collection. In due time, the brand will announce the successor who will continue the legacy.

Dries Van Noten has created some of the most iconic collections in fashion history, spanning from his Fall Winter 2001 menswear collection to his Spring Summer 2015 womenswear collection. We will always hold these collections close to our hearts and are grateful to him for adding much beauty to the fashion world with his eminent creations.

We wish him the best in his future endeavours, whatever they may be. His designs reshaped the fashion world, and now he’s reshaping how industry exits can look.

Dries Van Notes Fall/Winter 09/10 collection, shot by MATHIEU RIDELLE.

Dries Van Notes Spring/Summer 94 collection, shot by RONALD STOOPS.