Born in Antwerp in 1958, Dries Van Noten is the third generation in a family of tailors. At the age of 18, Dries entered the fashion design course of Antwerp’s Royal Academy. On graduating, he began to freelance as a consultant designer before starting his own collection of menswear in 1986. Since its beginnings Dries Van Noten has presented collections for women and men for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter each year. He celebrated his 50th fashion show in 2004 and 100th fashion show in 2017.
In June 2008, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honoured Dries Van Noten with its International
Designer of the Year Award. 2014 began with the grand opening of Dries Van Noten, “Inspirations”, a first
ever exhibition featuring his designs and influences at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Another
configuration of the exhibit moved to Antwerp in 2015. In July France decorated Dries Van Noten with the
honour of ‘Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.’ In October 2016, Dries Van Noten wins the Culture
Award from The Province of Antwerp for his contribution to Culture.
In June 2018 Puig entered the capital structure of Dries Van Noten as majority owner. The designer remains, over the long term, a significant minority shareholder and continues his role as chief creative officer and chairman of the board.
2019 saw Mr Van Noten collaborate with world renowned fashion designer Mr Christian Lacroix on his
collection for Women, Spring/Summer 2020. In June 2020, and September 2021, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) has again nominated Dries Van Noten for its International Designer of the Year Award.
Q&A with dries van noten
When did you know that designing clothes was your path & passion?
There was a certain logic to my choice as my family had been involved in fashion and the garment business for generations. My father created one of Belgium’s most innovative retailers of ‘Pret-a-Porter’ and my grandfather was a tailor. I inherited my love of garment making, its traditions and rituals, from these men and my mother. Family immersed me in the craft and skill of fabrics, impassioned me with the power of flair and style for women and men that fired my quest to explore and question the subjectivity of “beauty” and the role it would play in my life. My family was very supportive and encouraged me to continue its fashion tradition. I regularly accompanied my parents to Paris and Milan on their many buying trips for collections. Though they had imagined I might take over the retail business, that I was passionate to become a fashion designer came as a great surprise to them.
What is your design signature?
I see a garment as a singular item of excellence that is part of a larger story told, firstly, within a designer’s vision for a collection and ultimately as part of the final wearer’s expression of their style through their wardrobe. My joy is to create a garment that fuses and balances beauty, craft and function, a garment that can perform well and continue in time to become part of life’s story. I enjoy juggling with colours, textures and light in a way that evokes rather than provokes.
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
The spark of inspiration for the narrative of a collection rarely ever comes in the same way. The initial idea can sometimes come quickly and remain constant throughout the design process… occur on a walk in my garden, encountering a painting or the life and work of an artist. It can be something rarefied or ordinary, for example, suddenly looking at something that has surrounded me every day and seeing it in a different way that inspires. It can be a photograph in a book or a magazine, a re-read passage in a loved book, a conversation with friends or my design team or a piece of music. For other collections the story is more of a journey, deliberate, considered, and evolves through time and the design process. Anything can be that spark that ignites the creative process. What I have learned is that one recognises the spark when it happens, it may not be too planned, be ‘of its time’ and is more emotional than cerebral.
Is there a difference between style and fashion?
Of course, style comes from within..
What colour or fabric would you never use?
None actually! Often, challenging myself to work with colours, fabrics, or forms that I have disliked and bringing them into a collection can be an important aspect of the creative process.
What is beauty?
The idea of beauty is supremely subjective and very personal. Time also plays a role when our view on what is beautiful to us evolves. A flower, a building or a garment can be a thing of wonder for one while leaving another completely indifferent. What was beautiful to us even recently may be ugly today. Luckily, all designers have their own eye on and language of beauty.
What is ugliness?
It resonates in the same way as beauty for me. It is exciting when the formerly ugly becomes beautiful.
Dries Van Noten graduates from the Fashion Design Course at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium.
Dries Van Noten debuts his first menswear collection, which is soon stocked in Barneys New York and Whistles in London.
The Dries Van Noten flagship store in the Het Modepaleis, a historic department store in Antwerp, opens.
Dries Van Noten makes his debut as part of Paris Fashion Week, going on to stage two womenswear and two menswear shows there every year since.
Dries Van Noten marks his 50th show with a spectacle at which the table, seated for 500 guests, becomes the catwalk.
The house opens its Paris flagship for the women’s collections on Quai Malaquais.
Dries Van Noten wins International Designer of the Year at the CFDAs and Royal Designer for Industry from the RSA Trustee Board.
A flagship store debuts in Tokyo, his first in Asia, as well as a standalone Paris men’s store near the women’s on Quai Malaquais.
Van Noten is also honoured with numerous awards; an induction into the ‘Galerie des Eminents’ by the Flemish Chamber of Commerce, a gold medal from the Flemish Royal Academy of Belgium and given the Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion from the Couture Council of the Museum, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.
Renowned perfumier Frédéric Malle creates a portrait of the designer through scent, with notes inspired by the designer’s life and influences.
The Musée Des Arts Décoratifs in Paris unveils ‘Inspirations’, an exhibition of what inspires Dries Van Noten’s collections, alongside a book of the same name. It’s the first show by a Belgian designer in the museum’s history.
France honours Dries Van Noten with the Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Letters from the former Minister of Culture, in thanks to this contribution to the country.
The documentary 'Dries' debuts, an insight into the designer’s life and work by filmmaker Reiner Holzemer.
The King of Belgium appoints Dries Van Noten a Baron in thanks to his enrichment of cultural life in his native country.
To coincide with his 100th show, a special book to mark the occasion titled Dries Van Noten 1-100 is released.
Luxury conglomerate Puig becomes a majority shareholder in the company.
Dries Van Noten collaborates with couturier Christian Lacroix on his spring/summer womenswear collection.
The designer is nominated for Designer of the Year at the CFDA awards.
Expansion in mainland China sees the opening of a store in Shanghai.
A store on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles debuts with a designated gallery space incorporated, called The Little House.
A store opens in Shenzhen, China.
Dries Van Noten launches beauty, with 10 gender fluid fragrances, 30 lipsticks in refillable packaging and a range of accessories.
Another store opens in China, this time in Chengdu.