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Dries Van Noten’s most inspiring Inspirations

If you can tell a designer by his inspirations, Dries Van Noten is a king of magnificent courts, countries and cultures. This Paris Fashion Week at Les Arts Decoratifs, the Belgian magician launched his first ever exhibition. A long, lavish journey through his wondrous inspirations, it takes you from the wardrobe of David Bowie to ancient traditional costume, military attire, and Parisian couture. And while the glimpse into the miraculous mind of the designer is something best experienced live, we can’t help but give you Dries Van Noten’s five most inspiring Inspirations…

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  • The Gold Tableau

    There’s something unashamedly epic in listing GOLD as a main reference. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, gold is Dries’. We are, after all, talking about the designer who once showed a collection devoted to The Thin White Duke and gave all the boys orange hair and played Golden Years while they walked out in jackets covered in golden bullion embroidery. We’ll revisit that in a bit, but first join us as we get lost in the gilded splendour of this Chanel evening ensemble from spring/summer '67, this Thierry Mugler number from autumn/winter '78, and this 1909 women’s coat from Greece or the Balkans, all of which inspired Dries’ autumn/winter '97 and autumn/winter '05 women’s collections on the left and right, respectively.


  • The Flower Tableau

    You could call Dries’ devotion to a floral print flower power, but his '70s were doubtlessly more about glam than hippies. The designer famously loves gardening and spends a great deal of his time perfecting the palace gardens of Hof van Ringen, the Petit Trianon-inspired Belgian estate he shares with his partner Patrick Vangheluwe and their airedale terrier, Harry. Amongst the floral fashion that inspired some of Dries’ most brilliant florals are these: Balenciaga dresses from spring/summer 59, autumn/winter 60, and spring/summer 64. A Chanel and a Christian Dior, both from spring/summer 57. A Maggie Rouff from 58. Nina Ricci dresses from spring/summer 64 and autumn/winter 79. A Patrick de Barentzon dress from 70 and a Pierre Cardin dress from 69, both designed for the Duchess of Windsor. And an Yves Saint Laurent jacket from autumn/winter 80 for good measure.


  • The Fop Tableau

    We already called Dries a magician earlier on and here’s why: he takes something widely considered kind of bad taste like gold or indeed foppish men, turns it around and makes it amazing. How does he do it? Magic. How does it look? Magical. For Inspirations, Dries picked his favourite fops and called in these completely invaluable paintings for a little display, because why wouldn’t you? They are: Gabriel Fauré by John Singer Sargent from 1889, Marcel Proust by Jacques-Émile Blanche from 1892, Silver Bosie by Elizabeth Peyton from 1998, Robert de Montesquiou by Giovanni Boldini from 1897, Portrait of a Man by Anthony Van Dyck from the 17th century, and a young Jean Cocteau by Jacques-Émile Blanche from 1913. (Old Cocteau coming up.)


  • The Teenage Bedroom Tableau

    Our tableau name, not Dries’, and while the room looks far from an actual bedroom, you can’t help but imagine Dries’ teenage chambers, covered in posters with all his idols and the people who shaped his youth: David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Jones, John Travolta, Klaus Nomi, Catherine Deneuvre, Blondie, and countless others. The first room of the exhibition, it also shows Dries’ first fashion influences, which includes looks by Claude Montana, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Kansai Yamamoto, Kenzo, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, and Yohji Yamamoto. (In fun facts, Dries was born in 1958. As were Michael Jackson, Prince, and Madonna. God, is that you?)


  • The Jean Cocteau Tableau

    Before there was Liberace, there was Jean Cocteau. A master in the art of staging himself, the writer and artist was a 20th century pioneer when it came to fantastical displays of masculinity and dressing as, well, an old-fashioned king in a modern world. To illustrate his love for bullion embroidery, Dries borrowed the investment uniform that actress Francine Weisweiller had made for Cocteau to wear for his Académie Française award in '55 (Cartier designed a little sword for Cocteau to go with it, too). Ambiguous in its flashiness, but ultimately fabulous and regal beyond dreams, Cocteau’s famous uniform and majestic spirit partly inspired Dries’ autumn/winter 11 men’s collection, alongside the ever-present influence of David Bowie. It became his perhaps most epic show to date, and the collection’s incredible handwork and out-of-this-world gilded military magnificence are just as present at Les Arts Decoratifs as they were the day they walked down the catwalk.