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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Dries Van Noten final show, the end of a Belle Epoch in fashion

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Dries Van Noten staged his final runway show Saturday, bringing down the curtains on a beautiful Belgium Belle Epoch in fashion.
Testifying to Dries’ importance, there was practically designer gridlock at his pre-show cocktail: Diane Von Furstenberg, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Alexandre Mattiussi, Kris Van Assche and Thom Browne. And even two of the original members of the Antwerp Six – Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck – with whom Van Noten exploded onto the international fashion scene in the late 80s.

Dries Van Noten – Spring-Summer2025 – Menswear – France – Paris – ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

A huge central block showed videos of his greatest shows, including Van Noten’s legendary 2005 dinner party show, where 300 guests enjoyed a three-course meal, before the cast proceeded to march along the linen on a 100-meter-long table. A show staged in the same location as this finale, a ginormous former factory in the sketchy north Paris neighborhood of La Courneuve.
Imagery dating all the way back to his early days in Paris, like the beautiful 1994 show in Passage Brady, an arcade crammed with Indian restaurants, ideal for a designer known for his beautiful ethnic prints and Mumbai embroidery.

But instead of greatest hits, Van Noten pushed the envelope with a whole new series of metallic iridescent fabrics in this show.
Van Noten also called up his greatest catwalkers: like fellow Belgian Alain Gossuin, who opened the show in an impeccably tailored black coat paired with. Followed by grizzly bearded but still lean and handsome Stefano Tartini and John Armstrong – cool in a coopery spy dandy’s coat.
Among the ladies there were Karen Elson in what could have been a lover’s blazer she borrowed for the show and Hannelore Knuts in a stupendously. Cut white mannish tuxedo. 
Presented with immaculate staging on a runway made of silver leaf, illuminating the cast both from above and below. The better to light the blend of floral prints and metallic fabrics that was at the heart of this collection.
“I was meant to be a celebration and I think it was a celebration,” said Dries in a jam-packed backstage.
A largely menswear collection where the women looked like they were wearing boyfriends’ clothes.

Dries Van Noten – Spring-Summer2025 – Menswear – France – Paris – ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

“I didn’t want a retrospective or a best off, but to show new materials, to push forward. Playing and breaking the codes. So, I ended with golden looks, as I found the fabrics so spectacular. Now, I am very happy and off to Italy for a week,” added the 66-year-old designer.
The show marked the 130th defile in Van Noten’s extraordinary career, which began in Antwerp. The son a family in textiles, Van Noten would go on to study in Antwerp’s Royal Academy before launching his own signature collection in 1986. Immediately gaining a following for his unique blend of cool tailoring, street cred’, ethnic embroidery and rich fabrics.
In fashion, as in football, Belgium has always punched above its weight. And its greatest champion and defining designer has been Dries. Whose beautiful clothes and crafty staging – retro classic car lots, derelict garages, Paris city hall or cavernous basements all made his shows must see events. There was even a half-decade period in the aughts when he was one of the top three designers in the world.

Like a lot of Belgians, Dries could be curmudgeonly and never suffered fools gladly. But he was always an extremely generous host, and was again tonight with the fine wine and fare served at his farewell. 
In 2018, he sold control of his business to the Puig family, the Catalan clan which already owned runway brands like Jean-Paul Gaultier, Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci and Rabanne. His departing leaves the Puig’s will an extremely difficult question of casting a successor. Replacing a designer with as distinctive an aesthetic as Dries will be no cinch. Leading to speculation that the management may opt for an internal solution.
But for the moment one is left with a bittersweet taste, a unique career ended while seemingly still in its prime. Karl Lagerfeld worked from hospital two days before he died, and Armani will stage his next couture collection this Tuesday – at the age of 89. But Dries will quietly retire, keeping an eye on the house’s fledgling scent business; tending to his garden in Belgium, or swimming off his beachfront property south of Naples.
There are many worse sunsets. 

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