Dries Van Noten – Inspirations

DSC01378iI just watched the latest show of Dries Van Noten’s Men Summer 2015 during Paris Fashion week, a fluid and effortless collection inspired by ballet in general and Rudolf Nureyev in particular – of which I could wear absolutely everything including the shoes. This reminded me that, while New York has been monopolizing my life (and these pages) lately, I  had the most enchanting little Paris three-day break, earlier in May (booked soon after Dries Van Noten – Inspirations opening was announced).

It is not a retrospective, the Belgian designer repeated in every opportunity. Truth be told, it is not a fashion exhibition either. Rather than just displaying his creations in array (a whole lot bigger space would be called for), Van Noten, together with curator Pamela Golbin, handpicked and brought together under the roof of les Arts Decoratifs, a collection of ideas, dreams and inspirations.

The exhibition room is soothingly dark, with soft spotlight leading our eyes to all the right places. Van Noten’s designs are intermingled with those of designers that influenced him and works of art that inspired him, that either belong to the museum or were borrowed from other museums or private collections.

The pieces are arranged in themed groups with names like: Rapture, Punk, The Kiss, The Piano, Gold, Foppish, Iconoclast and The Duke, with Bowie, Cocteau and Visconti making cameo appearances. There are dresses by  Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior, paintings by Francis Bacon, Michaël Borremans, Léon Spilliaert, films like Stanley Kubrick’s ”Clockwork Orange” and Jane Campion’s ”The Piano”, extracts of dance performances by Pina Bausch (Tanztheater Wuppertal) and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas.

They are all placed in glass cubicles creating corridors and passages, slightly disorientating, much like a maze in the pathways of which you wouldn’t mind turning around, forever. If the first floor would be thought of as the innermost parts of the artist’s house, the first floor is his garden. Here, Van Noten’s creations inspired ”by nature and technology, raw energy and finesse” blend in with Cecil Beaton’s bunny suit for a bal masqué of 1937, florals by Dior, Ricci and Balenciaga, with India, Bollywood, Spain and Mexico shimmering in warm light, a trip to a fantasy-land on indian cottons and silks, sarongs and kimonos, embroidered folkloric dress and fluid florals.

The exhibition includes designs and video clips from Van Noten’s very beginnings (three of his graduation pieces of 1981 are on show next to designs by Montana, Westwood, Versace, Mugler and Gaultier, a reminder that here is a man who made even the terrifyingly padded ’80s look elegant), until the present (his research for the exhibition was a direct influence on his Spring/Summer 2014 collection for Men & Women).

I’m not sure if photography was allowed, there was a ”No” sign outside but everyone kept ignoring it and no one protested.

This is a small sample of a brilliant exhibition where the worlds of fashion and art become one and create a wonderful, inspiring place.

(No flash was used for obvious reasons) – I hope you enjoy!

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Francis Bacon. ”Extremes of emotion: tears and laughter, horror and joy.”

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Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter Collection 2009-10. Inspirations: Francis Bacon, Rosas Rain (Dance Performance)

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Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter Collection 2010-11. Inspiration: Christian Dior, tailleur Bar 1947

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Dries Van Noten Collection Spring/Summer 2011

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Dries Van Noten Spring/Summer Collection 1999. Inspirations: Leon Spilliaert, Elsa Schiaparelli, Worth. Marcel Broodhaers’ ”Casserole de moules noire” – 1968. ”The Piano”, 1993 Film by Jane Campion

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Inspirations: the traditional ”Pirpiri” worn by Greek-Balkan women (model shown here is from 1909), Thierry Mugler’s ensemble of 1978-79 and Chanel’s ensemble of 1967

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Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter Collection 1997-98

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Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter Collection 2006-07

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Inspirations: Bell hats by Jean Dunand pour Agnès, 1925. Shoes by Hellstern & Sons, 1924

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Dries Van Noten Spring/Summer Collection 2009

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Inspiration: Giovanni Boldini ”Portrait of Robert de Montesquiou”, 1897

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Dries Van Noten, Men’s Fall/Winter Collection 2009-10. Elizabeth Peyton ”Silver Bosie”, 1998

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Dries Van Noten, Men’s Fall/Winter Collection 2000-01

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Lanvin’s ”Academician’s dress”, 1955 worn by Jean Cocteau sitting in front of Frank Scherschel’s print: Jean Cocteau wearing the uniform of the Académie française

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Detail: Sword of the Academician, by Cartier. Designed by Jean Cocteau, 1955

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Collection of shoes owned by Baron de Redé

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In the ”Foppish” section. Dries Van Noten leopard coat, Fall/Winter Men’s Collection 2006

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The Duke Section. Suit that belonged to the Duke of Windsor in the ’30s, in front of Cecil Beaton’s self-portrait

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Inspiration: Cecil Beaton’s costume for a bal masqué, 1937

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Dries Van Noten’s version of camouflage, Spring/Summer Men’s Collection 2013

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Inspiration: Patrick de Barentzen, dress that belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, ca. 1970

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Dries Van Noten, Spring Collection 2000

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Inspiration: Balenciaga and a Picasso of 1945

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Inspiration: Balenciaga

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Li Xiaofeng, Porcelain Polo for Lacoste, 2010


Flower Power section. Spring/Summer Men’s Collection 2014 follows:




Exhibition prolonged to 02nd November 2014.

Les Arts Décoratifs – Mode et textile
107 rue de Rivoli

Viewed on 09 May 2014

Photography by Konstantinos Implikian


16 thoughts on “Dries Van Noten – Inspirations

  1. I cannot begin to describe how devoted I am to Dries. Great photos. The period of 98-00 was particularly influential on me–I see you have a few representations there.
    WIsh I could get there before it closes. I should do like you and book trips based on exhibitions and performances 🙂
    I’m planning a blog post soon that will follow on from your exhibition visit…Stay tuned!

    • I had a feeling you might like this. You’ve got time till November to think about it and answer the call 🙂
      It’s beyond anything I could imagine but, then again, this is Dries!
      You certainly know how to create suspense – eyes firmly on my reader till your next post 😀

    • I’m very happy too, photos help me go back and remember (plus I can share them now on the blog :-)). It was amazing to see DVN’s evolution and understand his influences. The fabrics, the cut, the design!! I was writing on another comment earlier that I find something distinctly Anversois about his work… subtle but unmistakably there!

    • This is hard to believe! I mean it! 🙂
      Anyway it’s the feeling that counts – it put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Needless to say, we haven’t even bothered with the rest of the museum – not after such a treat!

  2. Amazing how Dries van Noten is able to create new/unique pieces each season and still be true unto his initial vision. The inspirations are fabulous and you can see how they influenced his collections or why he loved them.
    Creative Genius.

    • Very well said! And all the while being true to his Anversois background and heritage, too. There is something distinctly Flemish about his work, not really visible, more of a feeling, but it’s definitely there.

  3. Beautiful pieces 🙂 Some of these clothes are magnificent! As far as i know, photography is not usually allowed in such exhibitions but i’m glad that you could come back with photos to accompany your post, so we can enjoy them as well 🙂

    • I love DVN style. I’d even wear his men’s clothes. I was thrilled when I realised no one was coming to stop us photographing. I guess they thought we couldn’t capture the whole picture, rich as it is, anyway. But we do what we can to spread the love 🙂

      • Totally 🙂 I would wear them too! Maybe they thought you couldn’t really make any good photos without flash. It seems like the light was very dim but with the newer cameras you can take photos in almost absolute darkness without flash…hehe.

      • Yes, it was very dim but even with a very average compact camera, we could take some pictures. We should think about a spy camera for some other, stricter museums 🙂

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