The Van Noten Vanguard: Pinnacles in the Legacy of a Fashion Legend


Image Credits: Acielle/Styledumonde

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9. 100TH FASHION SHOW (2016)


Whispers of silk, bursts of color, and a legacy woven through decades of fashion – this is the tapestry of Dries Van Noten. 

From the cobblestone streets of Antwerp to the glittering runways of Paris, Van Noten’s journey has been a masterclass in sartorial poetry. 

His creations don’t merely clothe; they narrate, they provoke, they inspire. 

In a world often seduced by the fleeting, Van Noten has stood as a beacon of timeless innovation, his every collection a brushstroke on the grand canvas of style. 

As we unfurl the story of this Belgian virtuoso, we invite you to step into a realm where fabric becomes philosophy, and fashion transcends the temporal to touch the eternal. 

Welcome to the Van Noten vanguard – a celebration of pinnacles in the legacy of a true fashion legend.


The historic entrance of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, featuring a statue in the foreground.

In the hallowed halls of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, a fashion revolution was brewing. 

It was 1981, and Dries Van Noten was about to graduate from an institution that would soon become synonymous with avant-garde design. 

The Academy, a crucible of creativity, had been nurturing a new breed of designers who would collectively redefine the boundaries of fashion. 

Van Noten’s early aesthetics were a tantalizing blend of the traditional and the subversive, drawing inspiration from both Belgian folklore and the punk movement sweeping through Europe. 

His student projects were a masterclass in juxtaposition – think voluminous silhouettes adorned with intricate embroideries inspired by Flemish paintings, all executed with a rebellious edge.

Under the watchful eye of mentors like Linda Loppa, whose razor-sharp vision helped shape an entire generation of Belgian designers, Van Noten honed his craft. 

His graduation collection was nothing short of a sartorial manifesto. 

It featured oversized coats in rich, earthy tones, paired with delicately patterned shirts – a harbinger of the layered, textural complexity that would become his signature. 

But Van Noten wasn’t alone in his ascent. 

The class of ’81 was a veritable who’s who of fashion revolutionaries. 

Alongside him stood the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Bikkembergs, part of the legendary “Antwerp Six” who would go on to shake the foundations of Paris fashion. 


Black and white photo of the iconic Antwerp Six, including Dries Van Noten, posing together in stylish outfits.

Fast forward to 1986, and the fashion world was about to experience a seismic shift. 

The Antwerp Six emerged as a collective force, ready to challenge the status quo and redefine the boundaries of design. 

Alongside Dries Van Noten stood Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee – each a unique voice in the chorus of Belgian avant-garde.

This sextet of sartorial revolutionaries descended upon London, their garment bags filled with dreams and designs that defied convention. 

Their early showcases sent shockwaves through the industry, presenting a united front of Belgian innovation that was impossible to ignore. 

Models walking the runway at an Antwerp 6 fashion exhibition holding masks to their faces, wearing innovative and artistic outfits.

Van Noten’s contribution stood out – his masterful mixing of patterns and textures, coupled with a keen eye for proportion, offered a fresh perspective on menswear that felt both timeless and cutting-edge.

The Antwerp Six’s impact reverberated far beyond the confines of Belgian fashion. 

They dared to challenge Paris’s iron grip on the industry, proving that true creativity knows no geographical bounds. 

Their collective vision – a potent blend of conceptual design, impeccable craftsmanship, and a dash of Belgian surrealism – offered a compelling alternative to the prevailing fashions of the time.

Van Noten, in particular, emerged as a bridge between the avant-garde and the wearable. 

His designs, while undeniably innovative, never lost sight of the end-user. 

This pragmatic approach to high fashion would become a hallmark of his work, setting him apart even within this illustrious group.

The reverberations of the Antwerp Six’s London debut continue to be felt decades later. 

They paved the way for a more decentralized fashion landscape, where ideas and influences flow freely across borders. 

The group’s success emboldened designers from other non-traditional fashion capitals to stake their claim on the global stage, ushering in an era of unprecedented diversity in the industry.


Two models posing in an artist's studio, wearing intricate and glamorous Dries Van Noten outfits.

Image Credit: Steven Meisel, Vogue

In the same whirlwind year of 1986, Dries Van Noten took a leap of faith, launching his eponymous label. 

This move was a declaration of artistic independence, a canvas for Van Noten to fully realize his vision. 

The initial concept? 

A harmonious blend of the opulent and the everyday, where sumptuous fabrics and intricate patterns could coexist with practical, wearable silhouettes.

Van Noten’s debut collection was a sartorial love letter to his Belgian roots, infused with global influences. 

Standout pieces included oversized coats in rich jewel tones, adorned with intricate embroideries inspired by Indian textiles. 

These garments spoke volumes about Van Noten’s ability to traverse cultural boundaries, creating a unique aesthetic that was both familiar and startlingly new.

Launching an independent label in the cutthroat world of fashion was no small feat. 

Van Noten faced the Herculean task of not only designing collections but also managing production, sales, and the myriad other aspects of running a business. 

Yet, his unwavering commitment to his vision and his knack for creating desirable, wearable art quickly caught the eye of discerning buyers.

Early supporters of the brand included avant-garde boutiques in Antwerp and Paris, who recognized the fresh perspective Van Noten brought to the table. 

These stockists became more than just retail partners; they were evangelists for Van Noten’s unique blend of artistry and wearability.

The designer’s personal aesthetic – a masterful mix of prints, textures, and unexpected color combinations – translated seamlessly into his label. 

Each collection felt like a window into Van Noten’s eclectic world, where influences from art, literature, and global cultures coalesced into something entirely new.


Models walking the runway together in vibrant and eclectic outfits during Dries Van Noten's Fall/Winter 1993 Paris Fashion Week debut.

The year 1993 marked a watershed moment for Dries Van Noten. 

The Belgian designer, already a cult favorite among fashion cognoscenti, stepped onto the world stage with his Paris Fashion Week debut. 

This wasn’t just another runway show; it was a coming-out party for a visionary who would reshape the landscape of haute couture.

Van Noten’s Paris collection was a tour de force of pattern and texture. 

Ethereal silks danced with sturdy wools, while hand-painted florals intertwined with geometric prints. 

The result was a sartorial symphony that left the audience spellbound. 

Critics raved about Van Noten’s ability to make the eclectic feel cohesive, praising his deft hand at mixing high and low, East and West.

The fashion industry’s response was electric. 

Buyers clamored for pieces, editors waxed lyrical in their reviews, and fellow designers took note of the new force in their midst. 

Van Noten had arrived, not with a whisper, but with a resounding declaration of his unique aesthetic.

This Paris debut differed from Van Noten’s previous shows in scale and ambition. 

Gone were the intimate presentations of yore; in their place stood a fully realized vision of modern luxury. 

The designer embraced the grandeur of Paris while staying true to his Belgian roots, creating a fusion that felt both fresh and timeless.


Black and white images of Dries Van Noten standing in front of the Het Modepaleis in Antwerp

Image Credit: DNR

As the calendar turned to 1996, Dries Van Noten embarked on a new adventure: opening his first standalone store in the heart of Antwerp. 

The choice of location was no mere coincidence. 

Nestled in the city’s vibrant fashion district, the store stood as a testament to Van Noten’s enduring connection to his Belgian roots.

Stepping into the boutique was akin to entering Van Noten’s personal universe. 

The store design seamlessly melded the old with the new, much like the designer’s collections. 

Antique furniture shared space with sleek modern fixtures, creating an environment that was at once familiar and utterly unique. 

This juxtaposition of elements perfectly mirrored the brand’s aesthetic, where vintage-inspired prints could coexist harmoniously with cutting-edge silhouettes.

Interior view of Het Modepaleis, showcasing the elegant and classic design with clothing racks and a staircase.

Image Credit: Modepaleis Dries Van Noten

The arrival of Van Noten’s flagship store sent ripples through Antwerp’s retail landscape. 

It elevated the city’s status as a fashion destination, drawing style pilgrims from across the globe. 

Local boutiques found themselves inspired to push boundaries, creating a vibrant ecosystem of creativity and commerce.

Within the store’s carefully curated space, customers discovered a treasure trove of Van Noten’s creations. 

Beyond the expected ready-to-wear collections, the boutique offered an array of accessories, from intricately embroidered scarves to statement-making shoes. 

The store experience was a physical manifestation of Van Noten’s vision. 

Every detail, from the lighting to the music, was carefully orchestrated to create an atmosphere of quiet luxury.


Dries Van Noten accepting the CFDA award for international fashion designer of the year on stage, smiling and holding the trophy.

The fashion world stood at attention in 2008 as Dries Van Noten clinched the prestigious International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). 

This accolade, often dubbed the “Oscars of Fashion,” signaled a seismic shift in the industry’s recognition of Van Noten’s unparalleled contribution to global style.

Leading up to this crowning moment, Van Noten had been crafting a tapestry of achievements. 

His collections, each more breathtaking than the last, had become must-see events at Paris Fashion Week. 

The designer’s ability to weave together disparate cultural influences into cohesive, wearable art had earned him a devoted following among fashion’s most discerning clientele.

The CFDA award catapulted Van Noten into the American fashion consciousness. 

Suddenly, his name was on the lips of style mavens from Manhattan to Malibu. 

This newfound visibility opened doors to collaborations and retail opportunities that had previously seemed out of reach in the competitive US market.

Van Noten’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection, a masterful exploration of pattern and proportion, likely played a significant role in catching the CFDA’s eye. 

Model walking the runway in a colorful and layered Dries Van Noten ensemble during the SS08 show.

Image Credit: Marcio Madeira

Inspired by the gardens of the Taj Mahal, the collection featured a riot of florals tempered by clean, modern silhouettes. 

In his acceptance speech, Van Noten struck a humble yet powerful note. 

He stated, “I consider this recognition a tribute to the team behind me and the spirit of creativity and independence that defines our brand.” 

The award served as a catalyst for Van Noten’s creative evolution. 

Subsequent collections saw him pushing boundaries even further, experimenting with new techniques and materials while staying true to his core aesthetic. 

The increased attention also allowed him to expand his focus on sustainability and ethical production practices.


The entrance to Dries Van Noten's inspirations exhibition, adorned with a floral mural and framed by grand columns.

Image Credit: Konstantinos Implikian

In 2014, the hallowed halls of Paris’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs played host to a sartorial spectacle unlike any other. 

“Inspirations,” a sprawling exhibition dedicated to the creative universe of Dries Van Noten, threw open the doors to the designer’s mind, inviting viewers on an immersive journey through his artistic process.

This wasn’t your typical fashion retrospective. 

Instead of a chronological parade of greatest hits, Van Noten and curator Pamela Golbin crafted a labyrinthine exploration of the myriad influences that shape his work. 

Vintage couture pieces nestled alongside contemporary art, while antique textiles shared space with cutting-edge photography. 

At the heart of it all stood Van Noten’s creations, each garment a testament to his ability to synthesize disparate elements into cohesive, wearable art.

Visitors found themselves transported into Van Noten’s atelier, surrounded by the very objects that spark his imagination. 

A collection of antique buttons here, a stack of well-worn art books there – each item offered a glimpse into the alchemical process by which inspiration becomes creation. 

This peek behind the curtain demystified Van Noten’s genius while simultaneously elevating it, revealing the depth of thought and breadth of reference that inform each collection.

A vibrant display of Dries Van Noten's fashion pieces in a museum exhibition, surrounded by colorful floral artwork.

Here, amid the organized chaos of fabric swatches and sketches, visitors could almost feel the spark of creativity in the air. 

It was an intimate portrait of an artist at work, rendered on a grand scale.

The exhibition drew record crowds, with fashion enthusiasts and art lovers queuing for hours to immerse themselves in Van Noten’s world. 


Models sitting and standing on a grass-like runway during a Dries Van Noten fashion show. ss15

Image Credit: Yannis Vlamos /

As the curtains rose on Paris Fashion Week in 2014, Dries Van Noten unveiled his Spring/Summer 2015 collection – a tour de force that would cement his status as a master of print and pattern. 

Drawing inspiration from the psychedelic art of the 1970s, Van Noten crafted a visual feast that pushed the boundaries of his own aesthetic while remaining unmistakably “Dries.”

The collection was a kaleidoscope of color and form. 

Flowing silk dresses adorned with swirling Op Art patterns shared the runway with sharply tailored suits in unexpected color combinations. 

One standout piece – a floor-length gown featuring a mesmerizing gradient of blues and purples – seemed to ripple and shift as the model walked, creating an almost hypnotic effect.

Model showcasing a striped, colorful dress from Dries Van Noten's collection on the runway of the ss15 show.

Image Credit: Yannis Vlamos /

Van Noten’s mastery of texture was on full display. 

Delicate lace overlays added depth to bold prints, while strategically placed sequins caught the light, creating a sense of movement even in static garments. 

The juxtaposition of matte and glossy surfaces added yet another layer of visual interest, inviting viewers to look closer, to touch, to experience the clothes with all their senses.

The runway itself was a work of art. 

Models walked on a mirrored floor that reflected and refracted the patterns of their garments, creating a dizzying, dreamlike atmosphere. 

Overhead, a canopy of multicolored lights shifted and changed, bathing the collection in an ever-changing spectrum of hues.

9.100TH FASHION SHOW (2016)

Dries Van Noten surrounded by models and friends celebrating after his 100th anniversary fashion show.

Image Credit: Corey Tenold

In the annals of fashion history, few milestones shine as brightly as Dries Van Noten’s 100th show in 2016. 

It was a triumphant celebration of a career that had reshaped the landscape of contemporary design.

The collection itself was a masterful blend of past and present. 

Van Noten deftly wove elements from his extensive archive into new creations, creating a tapestry of his design evolution. 

A jacket from his debut collection found new life paired with trousers sporting his latest print innovations. 

As models glided down the runway, the audience was treated to a parade of familiar faces. 

In a touching tribute to the artisans and muses who had shaped his journey, Van Noten invited models from across his career to participate. 

Seasoned runway veterans shared the catwalk with fresh faces, embodying the designer’s ability to bridge generations through his work.

Iconic pieces from Van Noten’s oeuvre made triumphant returns, reimagined for a new era. 

The famous “paint-splattered” jeans from his early collections were reborn in luxurious silk, while his signature floral prints bloomed anew on modern silhouettes.

Models walking the runway together at Dries Van Noten's 100th anniversary show.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Each piece was a conversation between past and present, a dialogue of design that spoke volumes about Van Noten’s artistic growth.

The media frenzy surrounding the show was unprecedented. 

Fashion journalists penned love letters disguised as reviews, while industry insiders spoke in reverent tones about Van Noten’s enduring influence. 

In a rare moment of public reflection, Van Noten shared his thoughts on reaching this milestone. 

“In this moment of celebration, I am deeply humbled and grateful. The joy of creation and the thrill of innovation have always driven me. To reach this point, surrounded by an incredible team and loyal supporters, fills me with profound gratitude. This journey has been one of passion and dedication, and I remain as in love with this craft as I was when I began.”

The 100th show solidified Van Noten’s legacy as more than just a designer – he was now undeniably an institution. 

It sparked conversations about longevity in an industry often fixated on the new, proving that true innovation isn’t about constantly reinventing the wheel, but about refining and evolving a singular vision.


Dries Van Noten taking a final bow on the runway, hands raised in farewell.

Image Credit: Francois Durand/Getty Images

 As the fashion world gathered for Paris Fashion Week in 2024, an air of bittersweet anticipation hung over the proceedings. 

Dries Van Noten, the maestro of print and pattern, had announced that his Spring/Summer 2025 collection would be his swan song. 

The news sent shockwaves through the industry, with designers, editors, and fans alike grappling with the impending end of an era.

For his final bow, Van Noten drew inspiration from the concept of metamorphosis. 

The collection was a stunning exploration of transformation, both literal and metaphorical. 

The runway itself shimmered in a bright silver.

Garments shifted and changed as models moved, revealing hidden patterns and textures. 

Key looks served as a visual retrospective of Van Noten’s illustrious career. 

A voluminous coat adorned with intricate embroidery hearkened back to his early collections, while a sleek, minimalist suit nodded to his more recent explorations in tailoring. 

Each piece was a love letter to a different facet of Van Noten’s design ethos, culminating in a breathtaking finale gown that seemed to incorporate elements from every collection he had ever created.

The emotional charge in the room was palpable. 

Throughout the collection, Van Noten wove in subtle nods to his past works.

A particular shade of yellow recalled his breakthrough collection from the 90s, while a specific floral print whispered of his iconic SS15 show. 

Model in a vibrant orange velvet coat walking the runway at Dries Van Noten's final collection show.

Image Credit: ELLE

These Easter eggs delighted long-time fans, serving as a reward for those who had followed Van Noten’s journey from the beginning.

With Van Noten’s departure, speculation about the future of his eponymous brand ran rampant. 

Would a new creative director be appointed? 

Would the company pivot to a collective design approach?

Few fashion designers retire at the age of 66 in good shape and with a healthy business, as Dries Van Noten recently told the New York Times. 

In an open letter on Instagram, he wrote, “I feel it’s time to leave room for a new generation of talents to bring their vision to the brand,” expressing his desire to enjoy all the things he never had time for. 

He shared with the New York Times, “After the men’s show, I’m going to have another email address. I’m not going to be @driesvannoten anymore. I have to find an Instagram name now, because my Instagram is Dries Van Noten, and that is the brand. 

It’s strange. That I didn’t see coming.” 

As the dust settled, the true magnitude of Van Noten’s legacy came into focus. 

His influence could be seen in the work of countless young designers, his approach to color and pattern having become a fundamental part of the contemporary fashion lexicon. 

More than just clothes, Van Noten had created a philosophy of design that would continue to inspire generations to come.