While his designs may not always be recognizable among the masses, a trained fashion eye is quick to pick up on a Dries Van Noten piece. Characterized by an array of contrasting prints, bold colors and layers of unusual reworked fabric, a Dries Van Noten creation is far from conventional. Take one of the designer's popular scarves, which are typically embroidered and reconstructed, using different techniques from all over the world including India, Morocco and Europe. Merging traditional with more contemporary themes to create something entirely new, it's hard to refute that Van Noten's distinct talent lies within his ability to beautifully blend seemingly antagonistic characteristics.
Another rarity the designer's line seems to posses is that it continues to be entirely self-financed, which is pretty unheard of considering the house's level of commercial and critical success. Yet, it's evident that the company's financial independence allows the designer a certain creative freedom, giving the Dries Van Noten fashion client a sense of individuality, which is again, a very rare find among modern Ready-to-Wear designers.
However, what's not surprising is the career path Van Noten chose to take from an early age. Born in Antwerp, he is the third generation in a family of tailors. Not only did his grandfather introduce the concept of Ready-to-Wear to the city of Antwerp by reworking secondhand clothing from the inside out, his father owned two large upscale fashion boutiques in Antwerp where he sold collections by Ungaro, Ferragamo and Zegna. A precocious child, Van Noten learned early on about the commercial and technical side of fashion, accompanying his father to view the latest collections and shows in Milan, Dusseldorf and Paris. From there, he quickly realized that he was much more interested in the design part of the industry than the retail aspect.
Van Noten decided to attend Antwerp's prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts where he would eventually become a member of the Antwerp Six, an influential avant-garde group of designers that included the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Bikkembergs. While studying there, he commenced his career as a freelance designer for a Belgian manufacturer, a hands-on experience that would prove invaluable in forming his own line. His menswear line, which officially launched in 1986, included a collection of blazers, shirts and trousers and was met with immediate success being picked up by prestigious customers like Barneys New York and Whistles in London. Today, the Dries Van Noten line has reached outstanding international success, with both a mens and womens RTW line, footwear, accessories and even a very successful fragrance collaboration. A story that is even more impressive considering that the label has never done any type of advertising.