The creative passion of Dries Van Noten

di Chiara Bottoni

The house founded by Van Noten is still independent and it has stayed true to its ethno-chic look with an artistic touch. He is urging young Italian designers to be increasingly audacious.

The creative passion of Dries Van Noten
Dries Van Noten

His show traditionally opens the dance of the big names at Paris women’s fashion week. Last season he got things moving with a show that was austere yet sumptuous at the same time thanks to its special location in one of the majestic rooms of the Hôtel de Ville. As always, everyone who is anyone was at the show. While commercial thinking reigns supreme in the trade and often holds back creativity, Dries Van Noten and his fashion provide concrete proof that it is still possible to follow your passion and go down your own path. The designer from Antwerp is his own boss at the company that bears his name, which was founded in 1986. He has become an exponent of a trendsetting style outlook which manages to thrive and grow without following the rules of the market. He sets an important example for the young creative talents of today and encourages them to continue experimenting. In this interview with MFF Magazine, he had a word of warning for Milan, where he believes that up-and-coming designers must strive to recreate the vibrant atmosphere that can be found in other international cities, and in particular in London.

What was the starting point for your latest women’s collection?

Prints and colour blocking grabbed my attention. My inspiration came from seemingly familiar paradigms for prints and conventional garment silhouettes, but I tore apart and overhauled the existing looks to create new items of clothing, new accessories and new decorations. I am known for the ethnic, colourful side of my work. With this collection I tried to alter this perception through a sort of conceptualization of the use of colour and prints. I utilized some photographs of clothes from my personal archive and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which I had digitally remastered and then printed two-dimensionally onto silk and cotton. To be more specific, we found some traditional tunics, skirts and jackets from China, Korea and Japan. Pictures of these existing garments were printed onto new clothes with different basic colour schemes. The images were often rotated horizontally on the body and the prints were cut into sections and blended to create the illusion of creases. The colour palette was also adapted to suit the range of clothes that we found and photographed. It was less measured and logical than a traditional collection would usually be. This use of colour gave a more vivid display of explosive hues. The colours and prints were brought together in an original mix and presented horizontally on coats, skirts, sweaters and blouses that paid tribute to the sartorial approach of the past. We amalgamated the vivacity and boldness of the feminine prints with the masculine sternness of the monochrome tailoring and the more sombre appearance of military khakis.

What impact does art have on your work?

All sorts of different things have an influence on my collections, but art is obviously one of the main factors. There are two collections in particular that perfectly exemplify this special relationship with the art world. For the Spring-Summer 2011 womenswear collection I took inspiration from the juxtaposition of prints that are not normally associated with clothing, including the work of the photographer James Reeve. More recently, for the Autumn-Winter 2012/13 menswear collection, I was influenced by two Dutch artists: a creator of murals and a calligrapher. I thought that it would be interesting to see how each of their visions could be transferred to clothes. To be honest, in both cases it proved rather tricky, but I believe that the final result was satisfactory.

What are your views on the fashion world today?

In an era of growing industrialization, I think that we are very lucky that passion is still the main driving force behind fashion. To quote the soundtrack from my latest show, I just hope that we can find some way to “slow down time”. It is amazing to see the hordes of blossoming young talents in London. It would be wonderful if Milan could muster up the same kind of creative energy. It makes you wonder why it doesn’t happen...

What development plans do you have lined up for the brand?

As a company, we are going through a period of introspection and reorganization rather than growth. We are exploring a number of options and opportunities, but at the moment they are not far enough along the development process to be revealed.