Dries Van Noten, Belgian designer, is retiring: but who can replace him?

Born and educated in Antwerp in 1958, Dries Van Noten launched the house that bears his name in 1986, occupying a special place in luxury: relatively accessible, colorful fashion, rich in patterns and textures that brought him critical success and of an international audience. On March 19, 2024 he just announced that he wanted to take over the leadership and the group that now owns his brand is looking for a successor.

As surprising as it may seem, retirement is quite rare in fashion. Designers tend to be thanked more or less politely, replaced unceremoniously, fired, or die while still in office. Like Gianni Versace, murdered at the height of his glory in 1997, or Karl Lagerfeld in 2019 while managing his namesake brand, Fendi and Chanel. But things seem to be changing if we are to believe Jean Paul Gaultier’s choice to retire from the catwalks in 2020 (the house has not yet chosen anyone to permanently replace him, and is appointing a different guest designer for each haute couture season). And now Dries Van Noten who made the news official on March 19, 2024.

Astonishment and tremors among the Flemish: the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten withdraws

In fact, the rumor had already been growing for a season: “ Dad dries himself » as his fans call him (I am one of them) he retires at 65. A common age to retire, you might say, but less common in the fashion that loves to exploit people until supplies and/or humans are completely exhausted. Jean Paul Gaultier, for example, waited until he was 68, while Giorgio Armani is still working at 89. A sign if any were needed that withdrawing from a house you founded and which bears your name can be very complicated. While the company (whose majority has belonged to the Spanish Puig group since 2018) is currently looking for a replacement, the Belgian designer published a touching open letter on March 19, 2024:

” Dear friends,

In the early 1980s, as a young Antwerp resident, my dream was to have a say in fashion. Thanks to a journey that took me to London, Paris and beyond, and with the help of countless people who supported me, this dream became reality. Now I want to focus on all the things I never had time for. I am sad, but at the same time happy to announce that I will be leaving my position at the end of June.
I’ve been preparing for this moment for a while and I think it’s time to make way for a new generation of talent to bring their own vision to the brand.

The next Spring Summer 2025 Men’s collection will be the last in my current role at DVN. The Spring Summer 2025 Women’s collection will be produced by my studio team with whom I have worked closely all these years. I am confident they will do a great job.

When the time comes we will announce the designer who will continue the story of DVN Men & Women. However, I will remain involved in this Chamber that I love so much. »

Again in this same open letter, Dries Van Noten continues by thanking his teams, those of Puig who owns his house, his suppliers, the artisans, including the embroiderers in India. But also his partner in life and business, Patrick Vangheluwe. But also all his fans who give life to his creations:

“My sincere thanks go to all those who love what we do. Seeing our clothes out in the world, knowing they have a place in your life, satisfied me beyond words. I’m sure: the future of DVN remains bright. »

By the way, who is Dries Van Noten and who can replace him?

Born in 1958 in Antwerp, Dries Van Noten grew up in the family of a clothing merchant. He graduated from the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1980 and worked for several local designers before founding his own menswear brand in 1986. The same year, he presented his work in London with his band my designer friends nicknamed ” the Antwerp Six » (six students of the class of 1980 of the fashion school who contributed strongly to the style of the time: Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Marina Yee and Dries Van Noten) and experienced growing success from then on , also launching into women’s ready-to-wear. It opened its first store in 1989, a sign of its rapid prosperity.

Dries Van Noten won the international prize at the CFDA Awards in 2008 thanks to his flexible tailoring, his sense of colour, patterns and embroidery which lead him to increasingly unexpected and hypnotic combinations. But also thanks to its relatively accessible price positioning which contrasts with the rest of the luxury sector. Furthermore, everything he presents on the catwalks is actually offered in stores, which is extremely rare in this industry that he prefers to drool through fashion shows on rarely marketed creations to better sell attractive products in reality.

Since 2018, Puig then bought a majority stake in the company, and Dries Van Noten remained creative director and chairman of the board of directors. Now that he is creatively retiring, it remains to be seen whether he will remain chairman of the board (the answer most likely yes) and especially who will replace him. Bets are open.

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