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Dries Van Noten, My Hero

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Dear Kay,

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Love,

Ann

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. I have been to the original Dries shop in Antwerp. It is tiny and amazing. Actually you would love Antwerp.

    Dries + Bridget Riley (one of my artist heroines) has to be fabulous. Oh, the grey and yellow mitred square jumper. OH, those orange boots. Have been looking for somewhere to go for a long weekend – Paris it might be, for that exhibition alone. (And perhaps La Droguerie. I am only human.)

    • You lucky duck. Always and forever a Dries fan!

  2. At the sight of that sweater, I was compelled to research the MDK archives for the very first instance of mitering – 2004!

  3. Thanks, Ann, for introducing me to this wonderful designer and his perfect clothes!

  4. Wow, those are amazing clothes. I clicked the link to his site and scanned the fashions. I’ll have the outer jacket (navy wool) in #16 and the black coat with the silver toggle in #25. I have to think about the other things but I love the colors and the big graphics. My shopping list may grow. Thanks, Ann.

  5. You guys are endlessly inspiring. I have project-desire-overload! I want to rush out and buy grey and yellow yarn and just whip up a few squares. If I add that to the “list” (thankfully, this list exists only in my head) it would be about number 75….

  6. I love the navy sweater with the silver flowers, and how all these coats feel very art-deco/20’s inspired, as well (feels like someone Sybil would have worn on Downton Abbey).

    Also, I find humour that, if he looks through his website traffic stats, he’s likely to find a whole bunch of click-throughs from Mason Dixon Knitting! haha

    Katie =^..^=

  7. Woooooooo! Love this!

    • The coats, especially, remind me of Sonia Delaunay. Wearable art but never ungainly or unwomanly.

  8. Drieeeeees.

    How wonderful. Let’s knock off that gray pullover with the neon stripe, ok?

    • Well, I was thinking KSH doubled for the mitre-y one. Or Fyberspates’ new Cumulus…

  9. ‘Slutty’ fashion is not the antithesis of ‘respects women.’ There are certainly points to be made about the inherent misogyny of a whole lot of high-fashion aesthetics, but eesh. ‘More covered up’ is not automatically ‘more respected as a person.’

    • V, ‘More covered up’ in Dries’ way of covering up is certainly a long way towards more ‘respected’ – we’re talking Western fashion here, not about women compelled (or not) to cover-up for religious or cultural purposes.

      He also, unlike some other designers of similar standing, acknowledges that the women likely to have the funds to buy his clothes are not likely to want to wear pelmet skirts and plunging necklines.

      • All very interesting. Some of Dries’s most influential and breathtaking clothes are almost completely transparent, so your phrase “more covered up” is not what I’m talking about. I’m interested in the refinement of what happens in Dries’s clothes. Maybe I should have used the word “raunchy” rather than “slutty,” given the derogatory implication of that particular word, which has such heavy judgment built into it. That’s not what I intended to suggest.

        Here’s how Dries Van Noten puts it in the book Dries Van Noten: Print, Shape, and Fabric: “For me, fashion is the realization of a state of grace which we can call beauty. it represents a perfect harmony of the body, of personal expression and of clothing; it is something universal and timeless.” That harmony is what is missing from so many designers’ work. Logo T-shirts, handbags with his name plastered on them, supermodel ads–he does none of these things, isn’t interested in chasing every last dollar he can get with his brand name. It really is about beauty–he has been doing this since 1993, with an unwavering focus.

        • Maybe “tacky” is the word you’re looking for?

          • Yes, and also trashy, graceless, wrong, coarse, crude, unrefined, vulgar, cheap, common, inferior, junky, lousy, low-grade, second-rate, shoddy, tawdry, flashy, garish, gaudy, glitzy, grotesque, kitschy, loud, ostentatious, overdone. All that!

        • Thanks for the awesome and thoughtful reply. I just hit the word ‘slutty’ in counterpoint to ‘respectful of women’ and had a really hard moment with it. (But I sort of assume that you’re a fantastic person, so did not unpack my flammenwerfer to wave around.)

          Mind you, my aesthetic leans really hard into certain kinds of tacky on purpose, and it’s always interesting to explore different expressions of style and design.

  10. Ann, will be in Paris April and June. Will definitely take in the exhibit – I have been to this museum before and saw an homnage to YSL (my hero). It was extremelly well done. E-mail me if you would like a catalog of the DVN exhibit. I will be happy to mail it to you. Tina

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