Introducing Dries Van Noten

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Introducing Dries Van Noten

Words by Mr Adam Welch | Photography by Mr Ben Weller | Styling by Mr Stephen Mann

4 February 2016

As our favourite Belgian brand debuts on MR PORTER, we show you five ways to wear it well.

Independence is a quality that’s hard to come by these days. Especially in the fashion world. Each season, another brand disappears from Fashion Week schedules (take the closure of Mr Scott Sternberg’s quirky Ivy League label Band Of Outsiders in 2015, for example), and emerging designers tend to fall into two categories: those who get bought by a giant conglomerate and those who go bust.

The fact that Belgian fashion designer Mr Dries Van Noten is still both owner and chief creative of his eponymous label, which he launched in 1985, is somewhat remarkable. We’re struggling to think of another independent designer who has had such consistent success over the years, or received such critical acclaim. (In 2008, Mr Van Noten won the Council of Fashion Designers of America International Designer of the Year award and in 2014, he was given his own retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.)

The word “independent” applies as much to the singularity of Mr Van Noten’s design vision as it does to his business practices. His designs may be packed with elements of the exotic and the surreal – think floral prints, eastern-inspired embroidery and pop culture – but they always have a calmness to them, an ease, an undeniable cool. In other words, his clothes are highly wearable. They have of a revelatory quality to them, a feeling of “I know this shouldn’t work, but it does”.

To celebrate the arrival of Dries Van Noten to MR PORTER this spring, we present the designer’s most valuable style lessons. Prepare to take your outfits up a notch.

You Can Wear Prints

Dense, rich prints are a recurring theme, with Mr Van Noten’s taking inspiration from sources as various as contemporary art (see his collaboration with Dutch painter Mr Gils Frieling for SS11), military camouflage (SS13) and the traditional dress of the Miao people of southern China (AW15). What sets him apart from his contemporaries, however, is his soft use of colour and dark backgrounds, which means that a single patterned piece – such as SS16’s palm-print shirt – can easily be worn with plain separates in neutral colours. Take your lead from Mr Van Noten’s runway shows, and you, too, can wear prints.

Channel Your Inner Rebel

Mr Van Noten’s work has a distinct sense of sophistication, but he’s clearly a rebel at heart. His collections often incorporate movements and figures that have challenged the status quo. His AW11 collection was inspired by the late Mr David Bowie’s Thin White Duke phase. His AW13 show was a sartorial tribute to the up-all-night hangover. In his SS16 collection, he references perhaps one of the original punks, Mr Salvador Dalí, who faces off in surreal prints with abstract images of Ms Marilyn Monroe. Wear one of these pieces – such as the grey sweater subtly emblazoned with the latter’s face – and enjoy your own slice of rebellion.

Keep It Simple

Mr Van Noten excels when it comes to wardrobe essentials, such as shirts, chinos and versatile casual outerwear. This is partly thanks to his deployment of classic menswear colours, namely khaki, light blue, navy and black. But it’s also due to his choice of fine, airy fabrics and an exercising of restraint when it comes to extraneous design detail. The best example of this approach is this spring’s Harrington jacket, a slim (but not too slim) outer layer in light canvas. Wear it with an untucked shirt and chinos for a look that’s both smart and cool, even at the height of summer.

Put A Twist On The Classics

Mr Van Noten first came to the world’s attention in 1986, when he showed his wares in London as part of the Antwerp Six, a collective of designers that also included Mses Ann Demeulemeester and Marina Yee and Messrs Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene and Walter Van Beirendonck. Their combination of austere minimalism and arch, witty deconstruction caused much excitement at the time, and you can still traces of this aesthetic in Mr Van Noten’s work today. Each of his collections offers items that, though familiar, offer something a little unexpected, such as this spring’s reversible bomber jacket, which is embellished with graphic panels that slice it in two. Keep people guessing by flipping it over to the all-black side when heading out for the evening.

Let It All Hang Loose

Where Mr Hedi Slimane is known for his skin-tight jeans and shoulder-hugging leather jackets, Mr Van Noten has a more forgiving approach to the human form, designing clothes that, while not necessarily baggy, have a looser, more breathable feeling to them. The best way to experience this is to wear one of his blue shirts slightly oversized and unbuttoned over a dark T-shirt. Add a pair of his excellent sunglasses, which measure up in every way to the quiet innovation of his ready-to-wear line, and you’ll be ready to do the beach in style.

Five Key Dries Van Noten Looks

AW08

Photograph by firstVIEW.com

Pyjamas as ready-to-wear. Everyone’s doing it now (at least, if the street-style photos are anything to go by). But in 2008, Mr Van Noten was already way ahead of the pack.

SS09

Photograph by firstVIEW.com

Few people have made the double-breasted suit look as elegant and lounge-worthy as Mr Van Noten in this show, which was also strewn with rather nice-looking cars to boot.

AW11

Photograph by firstVIEW.com

This collection was inspired by the late, great Mr David Bowie’s incarnation asThe Thin White Duke. Need we say more?

AW12

Photograph by firstVIEW.com

A curveball of a collection, embellished with lurid typography from Dutch graphic designer Mr Job Wouters and psychedelic textiles by painter Mr Gijs Frieling.

SS13

Photograph by firstVIEW.com

A typically Dries-ian deconstruction of classic camouflage patterns.Less lout, more louche. Genius.