Inside Dries Van Noten’s Final Show


On Saturday night in Paris, Dries Van Noten took his final bow after an illustrious 38-year career at the helm of his eponymous label. It was an emotional evening—one that the fashion industry has been bracing itself for since the Belgian designer elegantly announced that he was stepping down from his role as creative director in March. Longtime friends and fans made the pilgrimage to a warehouse outside of Paris to pay their respects—the same venue where Van Noten showed his 50th runway collection in October 2004. In the crowd were fellow members of the “Antwerp Six,” Ann Demeulemeester and Walter van Beirendonck, as well as designers Thom Browne, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Haider Ackermann, and Diane von Furstenberg.

“Today, I put on a Dries suit I bought as a student in Antwerp, but then I discovered that I’m not the same size as I was when I was a student anymore,” said Y/Project designer Glenn Martens. He was one of many who dressed, or at least tried to dress, on theme for the event. The emotional connection Van Noten’s clothes inspire in many was on full display. “It’s an item I would never throw out,” Martens continued. “It’s brown wool with yellow pearl embroidery. It’s very gorgeous. Like everyone else, I’m going to go to the store this coming season to get all the last pieces because I’m really going to miss this perfection and poetry.”

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In the days leading up to the show, nearly every writer and editor I spoke to had made a trip to the brand’s Paris flagship on the Seine. (I bought a pair of green sneakers on Tuesday, as soon as I arrived in town.) “It’s the most beautiful store in Paris,” one said with a sigh. Thankfully, Van Noten will continue to oversee retail in his new role, as well as beauty and other special projects. His successor has not yet been named.

“He gave me taste,” said Beka Gvishiani, who runs the popular fashion Instagram account @stylenotcom. “After seeing his shows, I realized what can be… I realized what my taste is and what I actually like. Basically, he taught me how to dress. Dress Van Noten!”

“I love the fact that the clothes move with you,” said playwright Jeremy O. Harris, who was dressed in a double-breasted pinstripe wool suit from a recent season with a blue sequin top underneath.

“[Dries] is a mockingbird,” added actor and editor Blake Abbie. “He travels the world and has all these incredible inspirations and celebrates them through his vision in a way that’s so respectful.”

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After a cocktail dinner where guests swapped bittersweet memories, a curtain opened to dramatically reveal a long, shimmering runway coated in silver leaf. The show began with model Alain Goussin, who walked Van Noten’s first-ever menswear show in 1993, and who, like the 66-year-old designer himself, now has salt-and-pepper hair. Other familiar faces included Karen Elson, Stefano Tartini, Kirsten Owen, and Hannelore Knuts.

During the first portion of the show, an existential recording of David Bowie from the Moonage Daydream soundtrack echoed over the loudspeakers. “Time: one of the most complex expressions,” he said. “Memory made manifest.”

The collection was so lightweight that it appeared to float down the runway in slow motion. “I didn’t want to make old clothes, and things which are looking old,” Van Noten told reporters backstage. But, of course, there were nods to the past, specifically Dries Van Noten signatures like oversized suiting, bright colors, bold prints, and delicate embellishments. Some looks featured suminagashi, a thousand-year-old Japanese print technique that translates to “floating ink.” A handful of transparent organza tops also “catch memories,” in Van Noten’s words.

For the finale, models walked out together, arm in arm. Karen Elson could be seen wiping tears. When Van Noten came out for his final bow, the audience was already on their feet for a standing ovation. After Van Noten waved goodbye, a curtain dropped behind him to reveal a gigantic disco ball. “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer played, a sign that the party isn’t over quite yet.





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