Dries Van Noten marches to the beat of his own drum and has no qualms about it.
At the last installment of the French Institute Alliance Française’s Fashion Talks series Thursday night, the Belgian designer spoke candidly about his unorthodox style when it comes to both design and business.
“I follow my own rhythm,” said Van Noten, the creative director and CEO of his 27-year-old brand. “It’s not my intention to do something different from other people. It just happens.”
While many luxury fashion houses count on accessories sales to pay the bills, Van Noten said he’d rather focus on perfecting his men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections.
“Accessories are important, but not too important,” he told the evening’s moderator, Pamela Golbin, chief curator of fashion and textiles at Les Arts Décoratifs. “I don’t want to be a designer whose business is [supported by] bags and shoes. I prefer to design clothes.”
Advertising isn’t a priority for Van Noten either. While he admitted to taking out two ads (a men’s and a women’s) during the late 1980s, the designer has since decided to focus his budget on other extravagances, such as fashion shows in Paris.
“I want people to really buy the clothes for the clothes, not just the label,” he said.
As far as his design practice, Van Noten told a perplexed audience that instead of choosing colors and patterns he’s fond of for each collection, he is often inspired by what he doesn’t like.
“Why don’t I like this?” he asked, breaking down the intricacies of a lilac fabric before discovering a way it could, in fact, be beautiful.
Van Noten’s notorious fabrics were a point of interest throughout the talk, as he, Golbin and audience members kept the topic alive.
“I feel spoiled,” the designer said of working with the small European factories that make his exclusive textiles. “We do a lot of printing … and looking back at the archives. It’s incredible.”
But when Golbin likened Van Noten’s creative process to a puzzle, the designer quickly disagreed.
“At the end of a puzzle everything fits together,” he said. “One thing I really hate is a system.”
What Van Noten really loves, though, is a fashion show.
“You have 10 minutes to explain to the audience what you’re doing and what you want to tell, so everything has to be right,” he explained.
Passionate about his creations each season, he scoffed at the idea of sending looks down the runway with no intention of ever producing them.
“I make clothes [for people] to buy and wear,” Van Noten said.