Dries Van Noten celebrates 100th fashion show

Dries Van Noten's women's 2018 Spring/ Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show in Paris last month.
Dries Van Noten's women's 2018 Spring/ Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show in Paris last month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • At the end of his fashion shows, Dries Van Noten takes his bow still wearing the all-access laminated pass hanging around his neck, as if the security guards might not let him out onto the runway without some proof of identification.

He does not bow dramatically or feign bashfulness. And the 59-year-old certainly does not swagger.

He offers a friendly wave, like a neighbour saying good night after a backyard barbecue.

That Van Noten still exudes an aura of accessibility and normalcy is notable in an industry that is not known for either, especially the higher up the ladder of success a designer has climbed.

And Van Noten has scrambled up quite a few rungs. His privately owned business wholesales around the world. He has a handful of free-standing stores, including a grand flagship in his home base of Antwerp in Belgium.

And yet he does not advertise.

And his clothes make only the occasional appearance on the red carpet. His business is fuelled by selling the precise garments that are paraded down his runway, not accessories, although he does produce handbags, shoes and a bit of jewellery.

So if a coat is lushly beaded or a dress explodes with feathers or a gown is practically sheer, that is exactly how it will look in stores.

Van Noten traffics in truth - a beautiful, intoxicating reality.

His shows are dramatic and theatrical, but he does not allow anything to distract from the clothes themselves. They are not hidden in murky lighting or diminished by a front row filled with celebrities.

And if a consumer purchased one of his jackets or a pair of his trousers five seasons ago, in all likelihood those clothes would be just as relevant today.

His point-of-view evolves.

It does not whipsaw.

His spring 2018 collection is an exuberant display of scarf prints and motifs, richly embellished dresses and boots, competing textures and tulle pullovers that surround an oversized blazer like a cloud.

Van Noten recently celebrated his 100th fashion show.

To mark this benchmark, he is releasing a double volume photo book dedicated to his work over the years.

A documentary about him by director Reiner Holzemer, which debuted on the film festival circuit, will be screened in Washington in a programme co-hosted by the Relish boutique and Hirschhorn Museum next month.

The Belgian-born designer, who stepped onto the world stage in 1986 in London, has carved a niche in the fashion industry that emphasises the relationship between fabric and silhouette.

His womenswear is distinguished by the juxtaposition of prints, colours and textures that might initially appear to be at odds.

But he finds the subtle connections that allow them to peaceably, beautifully co-exist.

He is a fashion diplomat.

He plays with layers and proportions, favours soft draping over sharp tailoring and aims for romance rather than overt sex appeal.

Van Noten is not as famous as some of his contemporaries.

Few outside the fashion industry would recognise him in the street.

His brand does not have a logo to serve as its philosophical shorthand.

But who needs a logo when the clothes he creates tell his story in full.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Dries Van Noten celebrates 100th fashion show'. Print Edition | Subscribe