Dries Van Noten was born in Antwerp in 1958. As the third generation in a family of tailors, clothing and fashion creativity has always been a part of his life (his grandfather, in fact, introduced Antwerp to the concept of ready-to-wear by reworking second-hand clothes). In 1970, Dries’ father opened a large upscale fashion boutique where he sold collections by top Italian designers. His mother, meanwhile, ran a Cassandre franchised store and collected antique lace and linen. With this kind of background, Van Noten may have been destined for fashion greatness.
In 1976, at the age of 18, he began working as a freelance designer while studying fashion design at Antwerp’s Royal Academy. Upon graduating, Van Noten started producing his own line of blazers, shirts and trousers, which met with immediate international success. Before long, the young Belgian upstart was selling to customers like Barneys in New York, Pauw in Amsterdam and Whistles in London. This initial acclaim led to the opening of an eponymous boutique in Antwerp, where he sold his men’s and women’s collections.
In 1989, Van Noten opened a five-story former department store in a historical building that had once housed his grandfather’s greatest competitor. Restoring the building, he also kept its original name: Het Modepaleis. In doing so, Van Noten helped rejuvenate the Nationalestraat, a once downtrodden area now noted for its boutiques.
Described as being “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers”, Van Noten’s eccentric style involves mix of prints, colors, original fabrics and layers. It is a style that has seen him gain admirers and followers around the world (including celebrities like Cate Blanchette, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Princess Mathilde of Belgium). Furthermore, all of Van Noten’s designs are ready-to-wear and available at retail: “I’m a little naive but I don’t like the idea of showing things that you don’t sell in a store,” he recently said, explaining his populist approach.
In 2008, Van Noten won the International Award of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.