“DRIES : an intimate portrait of fashion designer Dries Van Noten”— Fashion as Art

“DRIES : an intimate portrait of fashion designer Dries Van Noten”

Fashion as Art

Amos Lassen

The only thing about fashion that I know is that I wear what I like. I know nothing about catwalks, prices, couture and fashion houses. But I must admit that there is something artistic about it. I just recently discovered this film about Dries van Noten and I see that he is innovative, creative and influential than Dries van Noten. Reiner Holzemer’s documentary, “Dries”, takes us into his life and mind. Dries is Dutch and for the last twenty-five years he has been at the top of a very top of a highly competitive and multi-billion-dollar industry. He is an extremely private person and this is the first time he’s allowed a filmmaker to look at his private life and be with him through his creative process. The documentary was filmed over a year, and covers four collection. Along with that, Dries gives an insight into what makes him who he is and what are the driving forces in his life.

Dries van Noten is unassuming and down to earth. He is very, very driven and he makes sure that his home life is settled. He struggles to keep his independence and to stay at the top and we might think that this is at odds with domesticity. His clarity of vision which is quite extraordinary but I find the most fascinating thing about him is his quiet and intimate personage.

 Today, fashion designers are every much celebrities as are those they clothe but Van Noten is an exception to that. He is perfectly happy to be at The film starts tracing his steps when he trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and by the time he left in 1980 was recognized as part of the Antwerp 6. This was an informal group of young fashion designers who were determined to make their own mark in an industry which to date had not considered their city/country as a source of creative fashion.

Dries exhibited his first menswear collection in London with the group in 1986 when he got his first order from Barney’s and he has been moving forward ever since. Director Holzemer filmed Dries in front of a screen showing several of this past runway shows which not only gave us an opportunity to see how his style kept evolving, but also as Dries narrated it he could be completely candid about each of his collections. He is totally honest pointing out the seasons where success alluded him, particularly in the early 1990’s when minimalism was the trend. 


His truthfulness extends to his own personal behavior when he confesses to being more a control freak that likes to allocate every minute of his time usefully, even when he takes a rare day off visiting famous gardens in England. This appears to be totally fine with his husband and business partner of the last 30+ years, Patrick Vangheluwe, who supports Dries in all of his demands.

The main pleasure of the film is seeing Dries and his creative team at work in their wonderful converted warehouse in the center of Antwerp as they prepare each collection in every detail and then how they painstakingly break it down to what will end up on one of his beautifully choreographed runway shows and then in the stores.

The continued success of Dries is not only his not just his remarkable flair for fashion but also that he has avoided Haute couture and insists that everything he designs be sold in stores. He also has refused to sell the business and has kept Dries Van Noten as his very own.  

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