Dries Van Noten, My Hero
February 27, 2014
I know you know I have a profound love of Dries Van Noten, the Antwerp clothing designer. My budget does not allow me to indulge this love on a regular basis. But the great thing about the Internet is that one can easily, freely and by freely I mean FREE-ly, indulge in every single moment of this genius’s work. I cannot get enough. His fashion shows are my favorite reality show. I put them on my calendar. They are magnificent.
Yesterday was the show for his Fall 2014 women’s collection. Like magic, you can go to Paris right now and watch highlights of the show right here and here (where he speaks, briefly). You can see each look, all 55 of them, right here. And the details are where you can see his brilliance up close. If history is any guide, the ideas you see in this show will appear, soon, in just about every mass-fashion outlet you can imagine. Watch for op-art swirls to show up at Target. Watch for lesser versions of those gorgeous shoes in a department store near you.
He has so many qualities that I admire, most strikingly the refusal to advertise, anywhere. Think on that: a clothing designer who does not advertise. You will never see a Dries Van Noten ad in Vogue, but you will unfailingly see his clothes in its editorial pages. If you read about him, you learn that he is fundamentally kind, and that kindness comes through in his clothes. Unlike many, many other designers whose vision of clothing for women is narrow–and by narrow I mean nobody larger than a size 8 need apply–Dries Van Noten designs clothes that, yes, look fantastic on a slim model yet also work for many other women. He respects women tremendously–you can tell by the way he never asks a woman to wear something slutty or ridiculous. And his clothes are timeless; there’s no such thing as an out-of-style Dries. His clothes from 15 years ago look as modern and beautiful as his latest show.
He combines so many things in so many ways: feminine and masculine, print on print, color on color, extravagant textures. He finds inspiration and allusions ranging from Whistler to the Bolshoi ballet to the digital photographs of James Reeve. The bright, graphic swirls in this latest collection give a nod to op art’s Bridget Riley.
See? When you enter the world of Dries Van Noten, you look at a coat with a giant swirl across it and end up listening to the lovely voice of Bridget Riley saying things like: “The actual basis of color is instability. Once you accept that in lieu of something which is stable, which is form, you are dealing with something that is unstable its basic character. You begin to get a way of dealing with it. If you can allow color to breathe, to occupy its own space, to play its own game its own stable way, it’s wanton behavior, so to speak–it’s promiscuous like nothing.”
Or this interview, where Dries explains how he arrived at the fabrics for a recent collection:
Dazed Digital: Tell us about the references for the collection. It seemed like you took quite a trip!
Dries Van Noten: It’s a lot of Chinese, a lot of Japanese and a lot of Korean. We looked at costumes from the V&A collection. We photographed them completely flat as garments. We printed these images on fabrics and then heat cut the fabric into contemporary clothes, by placing the shape of the kimonos and the dragon curls from China all in a different way so that sometimes the seam of the coat becomes the shape of the dress. We just completely replaced all the elements. That’s what we wanted to obtain – the beauty of the fabrics but on contemporary clothes.
He has an incredible show opening March 1 at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, “Dries Van Noten: Inspirations.” Somebody in Paris please go to this show for me! When I say he is my hero, I am not exaggerating. He is looking around, constantly, curious and open and absorbing the universe in search of the things that are beautiful. His ability to take all that beauty and create his own version of it is utterly inspiring. I’m rattling on here because so much is cheap, ugly, lame, and dire in the world of design and fashion. And he is not. Dries Van Noten is someone to celebrate, so that’s what I’m doing. Like I said: he’s my hero.