When writing about Dries Van Noten’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection back in 2014, Tim Blanks noted that, “It’s fashion’s job to remind us that beauty is a human need.” This is something I’ve thought about often in the years since that show, particularly in relation to Van Noten, who, perhaps more than any other designer working today, continues to remind us of this eternal truth.
This season is no exception. Presented as part of Paris Men’s Fashion Week’s digital showcase, Van Noten’s Autumn/Winter 2021 menswear collection offered a ”fresh, new-fashioned, take on the familiar”; “whispering precision, purity abstracted, subtly lavish, calm and open, spare, informal, unceremonious.” In contrast to his last, fairly exuberant Autumn/Winter menswear collection – which was a high-voltage, high-glam offering centred around the idea of “using your sexual power to feel great” – this was a much more subdued affair. Muted, even. Sensitive to the times.
“It was really nice to be able to work on construction, on shapes, on volumes, rather than really bold colors and wild prints,” he said in an interview with Vogue Runway. “It was about going to the menswear wardrobe staples, and trying not to leave them because I wanted them to be recognisable, but to look at their function, and the way you feel about some things that you think you know but which maybe you don’t.”
While the colours and prints may have been subdued this season, the beauty was not. The clothes – from the colour to the cut – were perfect. And that’s why the designer is so popular – for his shows, yes, but for his actual clothes too, which possess an almost unrivalled power to evoke desire in the people who lay their eyes on them. Here, to coincide with the unveiling of this collection, six fashion editors weigh in on this; the enduring appeal of Van Noten’s designs and just why they love wearing them so much.
Susannah Frankel, Editor-in-Chief at AnOther Magazine
“I love the fact that Dries is such a subtle and layered designer. I very rarely wear dresses but I have some of his and people have actually stopped me in the street to ask where I got them. His clothes are full of very clever references but they are always discreet: resonant as opposed to overt which touches people, makes us think. Of course, appearances aside, there is a palpable sense of consideration for the body in the clothes. They feel lovely to wear.”
“I think it must take a very rare talent to make something that can entrench itself in the soul of someone else that strongly” – Anders Christian Madsen
Anders Christian Madsen, Fashion Critic at British Vogue
“It was love at first sight, in the Musée Bourdelle, when a string of Bowie boys in monotone double lapels and hussar jackets lined up along the chalky white statues, their hair painted red and Golden Years reverberating through the hall. Autumn/Winter 2011 was my first Dries show and the first time I can recall the rare feeling of needing – not wanting – to own an entire collection.
“It represented all the things I loved: Bowie, MJ, castles, militaria, monumentalism, neoclassicism. I remember thinking that’s how I wanted to dress for the rest of my life, and so far I was right. I look at that collection today and I still want to wear it, intensely so. Alas, I only got my hands on one jacket at the time, and since I don’t have the patience to search and collect, I projected my love for that collection onto the ones that followed.
“For about five years after the Bowie collection, I only bought and wore Dries. They were his opulent years when he was fusing all these Renaissance and baroque things with contemporary codes. I wear the magnificent Napoleonic coat covered in bullion leaf embroidery from Spring/Summer 2014 once a year. It’s tradition. To this day, I still dream of Autumn/Winter 2011. I think it must take a very rare talent to make something that can entrench itself in the soul of someone else that strongly.”
Rachel Tashjian, Style Writer at GQ
“Dries Van Noten’s were the first ‘adult’ clothes I remember really coveting – they’re worldly, confident, sophisticated. Dries made me think of buying as collecting; I have pieces from 20 years ago (thanks to vintage shopping) and pieces from last year, and they all fit together in this seamless language of print and texture, and intelligence and serenity.”
“There is always such a smart, cultured narrative behind the wild creativity” – Ben Cobb
Ben Cobb, The Perfect Magazine
“Whenever I’m in Paris, one of my first stops is always the Dries van Noten men’s store on Quai Malaquais. The staff all know me in there and know what I like so they immediately start pulling pieces out. But I’m also obsessed with the actual space: the orange lacquer walls and those Greek vases. Elegant and modern, it’s a perfect reflection of the Dries Van Noten world. The women’s store a few doors down is even more dreamy: I could happily spend the day in there, luxuriating on the sofas, surrounded by chinoiserie cabinets, enormous flower displays and gorging on the bowl of violet cuberdon sweets. Retail really shouldn’t feel this good. I remember a rumour years ago that Dries was opening a shop on Piccadilly in London. Sadly, I’m still waiting.
“To this day, some of my favourite menswear moments have been Dries van Noten shows. I’ll never forget sitting onstage at the baroque Palais Garnier for his Autumn/Winter 2016 collection; full of great coats, fur collars, serpents, regalia and military insignia, it was a Visconti film come to life. That incredible psychedelic show inspired by an imaginary conversation between Oscar Wilde and Frank Zappa – utter genius. And his Spring/Summer 2015 collection devoted to Rudolf Nureyev. There is always such a smart, cultured narrative behind the wild creativity.
“My personal wardrobe is filled with Dries pieces. Silk print shirts and shorts for my holidays, a dozen formal shirts (he gets the collar size just right), a brown check scarf I can’t live without, a faux-fur bag and some beautiful knitwear (my fave is a V-neck 70s diamond-pattern number, very Walter Albini). But it’s the tailoring I reach for most. And out of it all, a velvet, super wide-legged tuxedo suit with cording detail. It’s so chic and always gets lots of compliments.
“Just writing this makes me want to jump on the Eurostar.”
Ben Schofield, Fashion Editor at GQ Style
“I have so many good memories with Dries’ clothes. When I first started working at Another Man, one of the first pages I shot was a still life of the ornately embroidered jackets from Autumn/Winter 2016. The first piece I actually owned was a gift from Luke Day, the biker trousers from Autumn/Winter 2014. At that time the club night Savage was running at the strip club Metropolis and we’d all go every weekend, cramming into my mould-ridden box room to get ready, and these trousers were a staple. Personally, the allure of Dries’ clothes is that they’re tangibly sexy, which is less common than it should be; they’re clothes to go out in and clothes to maybe come home with someone in too.”
“I guess I must be something of a hoarder? Or maybe Dries is just that good” – Liam Hess
Liam Hess, Contributing Writer at US Vogue
“I know singling out a designer as a number one favourite can be a painful process of killing your darlings, but thankfully I’ve never really had that problem. For me, it’s always been Dries. Whether picking up second-hand pinstripe shirts from his 90s collections on eBay as a teenager, or eventually being able to afford a newer piece in the sales every few seasons, his magpie eye for whimsical prints, the endlessly fascinating rigour of his research, and the generosity of his fits has made Dries the designer I’m most excited to see every six months – mostly in the hope that I might eventually be able to, you know, actually wear it.
“I’ve also never been one to think about clothes from the mindset of a collector, but there are Dries pieces I no longer wear that I just can’t bring myself to part with. My most prized possessions? Two shirts from his Nureyev-inspired Spring/Summer 2015 collection, one in sheer cotton printed with an oversized blue and grey houndstooth, and another in a slinky green with an embroidered red paisley harness that buckles across the chest, both eBay finds that I wore only on the most special of occasions.
“I’ll be honest, though: I’ve put on too many pounds to fit into them now, and it’s probably time to let them go to a new home. But every time I do my biannual roundup of pieces to sell, I can’t bring myself to list them. Without wanting to sound corny, the details on that embroidered harness or the perfect gauzy quality of that houndstooth shirt really are things of beauty. If I’m willing to let them keep on taking up space in my closet, I guess I must be something of a hoarder? Or maybe Dries is just that good.”