His career began as part of an iconic design group, the Antwerp Six, and has expanded to include his role as the father of Belgium design. At this monumental point in time, almost 30 years in business, Dries van Noten’s Paris exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs is not a retrospective of his accomplishments, but rather a glimpse into his mind.
The exhibit could easily be part of a larger conversation on how pop culture, art, beautiful objects, and the work of other designers impact a creative person’s aesthetic. It is a spectacularly relevant topic, considering the state of design today, and the growth of fast fashion.
The exhibit features a significant barrage of visual stimuli, not limited to 1 or 2 or even 5 forms. With 400 components the exhibition is lively and intense. “Inspirations”, the exhibit title, concludes with a loop showcasing the closing of each of Van Noten’s 60+ shows.
Barney’s was Van Noten’s first customer, actually selling his menswear line in smaller sizes in the womens section. His business has seen consistent growth while maintaining a high degree of elegance, and creativity throughout the thirty years. In conjunction with the exhibit, Barney’s has dedicated their windows to the designer for 6 weeks ending this May.
It seems that the designer who eschews logos has finally settled into building a community for the brand, although small and discreet. As Matthew Schneier mused in his article for WWD June 4, 2013:
“There’s a telltale nape among men’s fashion editors, to judge from a glance around the Paris shows. The under-collars of their jackets (often navy, often double-breasted) flash a panel of pure white. That’s the sign and symbol of Van Noten.” It seems the designer who eschews most signs of branding and logos is not immune to a signature detail.
In a world that is changing quickly, remaining true to one’s design and business ideals is challenging. This is particularly true when one considers the incredible growth of many luxury brands through iconic key items and conglomerates helping them along, like LVMH and Kering. But Dries continues to slowly meet the times.
“Me, even myself, I wear the jacket with the white under-collar. Quite often when we walk around the city with some of our team and it’s cold, we put our collars up; you see from the back four guys with white under-collars. You think, oops, maybe this is quite obvious.