Some Thoughts From: Dries Van Noten

“Some Thoughts From,” a series of short features spanning some of the industry’s most notable designers, editors, models and other industry insiders, sharing their thoughts on anything and everything fashion. Up this week: a look back at some of the most quotable excerpts from Belgian design great and member of the legendry Antwerp Six, Dries Van Noten.

On garments being more than just products: Fashion is a reflection of what's happening in the world. It's not simply a product. That is something I don't want. For me fashion and emotion are kind of linked. Emotion is important. I'm a very emotional person. I want to get a certain feeling when I see something. At the same time, I don’t make pieces to put in a museum. I want to see women wear my clothes.

On actually selling the clothes from his runway shows: For me [producing every single look from on the runway for retail] is absolutely necessary. We don’t make couture; we make prêt-à-porter. And I’m very strict with that. For me, if you want to make dreams, make haute couture and show it without pretending that you’re doing something that people can find afterwards even though you don’t sell it. For me, that’s not right. I really want to show reality, not some kind of theory, like, “This is the way that fashion could look like, but you’ll never be able to get it.” For me, it’s a reality that I want to show. Okay, maybe a beautiful reality, maybe a reality shown with girls who are all 180 centimeters and boys who are 188 centimeters tall, but still it’s a reality.

On how fashion has changed: Fashion is not existing anymore. Look at what’s happening. The high street stores and all the fashion holdings with press, the whole system has killed itself a little bit I think. The red carpet, the celebrities, so much has changed. I like the fact you show something on the catwalk and have to wait a while to get it.  This idea of ‘click to buy now’ is something quite scary for me. The time you have to wait for it to come into store creates such a special feeling.

On keeping a low profile: I am very much a part of the industry. It’s not like I don’t want to have anything to do with the fashion industry, I just don’t feel I need to attend every party in Paris. I have other things to do in my life than being everywhere on the red carpet.

On the unwritten rules of red carpet dressing: The unwritten rules of the red carpet are so sad, I think. 'No flower prints at the Oscars,' for example. If that's the rule, then let's do flower prints. For winter we have beautiful evening outfits done in beige washed cotton with a lot of embroidery. You know there's not going to be one star who'd wear that on the red carpet… now they have to be half-naked.

On creating only two collections per year: I don't do pre-collections. Maybe for me it would be more interesting to do a post-collection. These types of things make us an exception in the fashion world ... We’re not the only ones who work in a different way. There are others. But my decision not to make pre-collections like all the major brands do for example, is based on the fact that we wouldn’t have the time to make it as well as our main collection. 

On why pre-season collections are important (for other brands): Well, for most designers the pre-collection is their commercial collection – it’s what they sell. Then they make a ‘fashion show collection’ that is useful in terms of image and gets them attention in the press. The equation, in terms of sales, is usually 75% pre-collection and 25% fashion show collection ... Other designers are concerned with creating an image so that they can sell accessories or perfume. In most companies, accessories, shoes and bags make up 60–70% of sales – for us it’s only 7%, the other 93% is clothing.

On not wanting to "trick" his clients: The fashion industry is full of tricks about how to create desirability and make things more commercial. You can find it in how you merchandise a collection, how you link garments or how you connect an element that sold well one season to items the following season. I try to avoid all that. I want my work to be honest and straightforward – I don’t like tricks.

On trends: Trends are also kind of a principle that is a little bit over, but… With houses that do a lot of publicity, a look is far more identified with a certain period. And there of course you have a little bit of a problem by doing publicity. You create an “of-the-moment look” and that is a little strange when you wear that look again one year later. It’s a bit like, “Oh, she looks like an old newspaper.” For me that is luckily not the case. We built up the company without doing publicity and in that way we have a more neutral atmosphere around it.