Exploring the Meticulously Kept Archives of Dries Van Noten

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Dries Van Noten Women's A/W13Courtesy of Dries Van Noten

We take an exclusive look at a monumental new publication that invites you into the designer’s richly woven world, from his first show to his 100th

A duplex of a tome hits shelves next month in celebration of Dries Van Noten whose 100th fashion show was presented in Paris in March this year. Written by AnOther Magazine’s editor-in-chief Susannah Frankel, who covers Van Noten’s womenswear, and fashion journalist Tim Blanks, covering his menswear, the two volumes chart each and every collection taking in everything from the food and drink served to guests on arrival to soundtracks and from inspirations to clothes of course. These careful notations are illustrated with no less than 2000 previously unpublished photographs taken on and off stage. The result is a revealing portrait of a designer whose collections are charged with intelligence, culture, emotion and, it almost goes without saying, extremely good taste, all of which has earnt him an extremely loyal client base and ever increasing critical acclaim.

“I’ve never wanted staging to overtake the message and emotion of the collection,” Van Noten tells Blanks. “I do not want people thinking that the staging was so huge and cost so much that it means the clothing must be more desirable. The beginning and end for me is the clothes. Yes, I want to make a fashion show for the images, but much more than that, I want to make a show for the people in the room so they feel something, a frisson that goes out into the world through them.”

As such, this two-part book is testimony to 35 years of evoking just that. Flower markets, fritteries, gardens, banquets, beds, carpets and living rooms are just some of the mise en scènes that have formed the backdrop to Van Noten’s collections but they never overshadow the main event. Of course, all come together to lend a heartfelt poetry to his presentations – whether they showcase the early bloom of his love of Indian textiles, opulent jacquards woven on antique looms, over-painted prints inspired by 18th century techniques or humble linens paired with luscious velvet.

“Dries once told me that, as well as travelling in the physical sense, which he has done extensively, he is also absorbed by ‘travel of the mind’,” Frankel writes. These works are not only an inventory of his every collection, but also help illuminate some of the more abstract threads with which the designer has enchanted so many, be it A/W13 when he sought to capture “the movement of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing in a single outfit,” A/W16 inspired by “the love affair between Luisa Casati and Gabriele d’Annunzio,” or S/S09, an imagined conversation between Rothko and Vasarely.

Van Noten’s 100th show dealt in time travel meanwhile, as he pored over prints from his archives and reunited the modelling greats (read: Alek Wek, Amber Valletta, Guinevere Van Seenus) who’ve walked for him over the past 35 years. Such a landmark to his ongoing legacy could be no better served than in the medium this designer knows best. As he explains: “People ask about the effort, about the transience of 15 minutes that a few hundred people see. For me, it’s very important, because it challenges me to create the collection… The only recipe I know for sharing that world is doing a fashion show.” Dries Van Noten 1-100 is a rich exploration of these fashion shows and of this great designer’s world.   

Dries Van Noten 1-100 by Tim Blanks and Susannah Frankel is published by Lannoo and available from October 1 2017.