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Retailers Salute Dries Van Noten, Who’s Retiring After Four Color-streaked Decades in Fashion

Retailers will have a hard time saying goodbye to Dries Van Noten, who told WWD of his plans to step down from the creative helm of his company later this year. They said they’ll miss the color, lightness of touch, and gardener’s love of florals that he brought to men’s and women’s fashion alike. Here, European and U.S. buyers pay tribute to him.

Alix Morabito, general buying and merchandising director for womenswear at Galeries Lafayette:

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This is the saddest news — he is one of my most loved designers. With Dries, it was never about the show, but the pieces, and the attitude of the clothes. You put them on, put your hand in the pocket, and you walk a different way. It’s also the only collection where I feel I can buy color. His light blue isn’t just that — there’s a touch of green there, too. I also love his approach to uniform — he does it in a colorful way. But it’s not only color. There are two dialogues he has going on with women: he can do black, sober, minimalist — and he can also do fireworks. And he can do them together — or apart.

Laura Larbalestier, fashion director, Harvey Nichols Group:

The Dries appointment in Antwerp is a coveted trip among buyers. When you arrive at reception, there is always a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Dries’ famous garden. As you make your way to the fifth floor and get off the elevator you step into his universe. There is a real sense of excitement and surprise about the collection you are about to discover. Of course, there are instantly recognizable things about Dries’ clothes — the unexpected color combinations, the embroidery and the fabrics, but these aren’t the only references that should be part of the succession of the brand. Part of the magic of the brand is that it can reference anything from David Bowie to Qing Dynasty to collaborations with Christian Lacroix. Taking all of these unexpected references and making them distinct and wearable is inherent to the brand’s DNA.

This announcement and the timing of Dries’ succession are, in many ways, in keeping with the idea of the unexpected, and working on his own terms.

Over the years, Dries has cultivated a fiercely loyal client base that collects items from different collections, rather than buying into seasonal trends, and feels personally connected to the brand. Buying Dries over so many years has been one of the highlights of my career, and one of my greatest teachers. The company values the people who continue to work there, and they are well equipped to evolve and carry on this rich and complex legacy.

Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer, Saks:

We will remain forever grateful to Dries for the creative vision and beauty he shared with all of us over the last 38 years. Dries’s unique sense of color and his use of print, pattern and textures made each collection so special, bringing joy and inspiration to fashion and creating what will be a lasting legacy. We are honored to have shared Dries’s vision with the Saks customer and look forward to continuing the story in the legendary house’s new chapter. Our best wishes to Dries on his next adventure. We will miss him, but we’re so thankful for the impact he has made on our industry.

Michael Kliger, chief executive officer of Mytheresa:

Dries has built a unique brand with very strong codes. And, even more impressively, he has built a company with a unique ethos and culture. He leaves an amazing legacy, and will be missed.

Richard Johnson, chief commercial officer, Mytheresa:

Dries has always walked his own path, from one season to the next consistently building a narrative blending diverse cultural influences. He’s an increasingly rare example of a designer who has taken his time to hone his craft, on his own terms, without following the whims of fashion. His very personal history in fabrics and fabrication has always been central to his best work, combining exquisite materials, bold prints and textures with his unique understanding of tailoring.

We have so many fond memories following his lead through the showroom in Antwerp during countless buying sessions, runway shows from Brutalist buildings on the Peripherique to the grandeur of École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and of course the wonderful event we hosted together at the home of Axel Vervoordt. So many memories, he will be missed!

Simon Longland, director of buying at Harrods:

Dries Van Noten achieved something truly exceptional, possibly unique. His work received universal praise from retailers, press and clients alike. He has always been known for his ability to defy boundaries, invariably staying true to his unique vision while remaining current and timeless. With an amazing ability to offer a new take and approach in his designs, he has been renowned for his mastery of color, fabric and technique. His work will undoubtedly continue to inspire both current and future designers for many years to come.

Judd Crane, executive buying director at Selfridges:

Dries Van Noten has led the way and shown us what is possible as a designer, building a brand loved by so many. While saddened at the thought of Mr. Van Noten’s personal creative genius not manifesting in future collections of the brand, my overriding emotion is one of absolute appreciation of and gratitude for everything he has created over the years.

Beth Buccini, founder/owner, Kirna Zabête:

When I was a young fashion editor, I remember attending my first Dries Van Noten show in Paris. It was a transformative experience. I had never seen a designer with such a sense of color. At our showroom visit, the racks of vibrant clothes all mixed together were astonishing. I nearly cried tears of joy. I bought a pair of fuchsia pants from that collection that I still own and wear today! Now, as a retailer selling Dries, I can confirm he has a cult following. His distinct point of view along with his magical touch provide his clothes with such emotion. This is a nearly impossible feat to accomplish for such a long amount of time. These are big shoes to fill.

Lana Todorovich, chief merchandising officer, Neiman Marcus:

Dries Van Noten’s extraordinary talent holds a unique perspective that will be greatly missed. His artistic expression and innovative approach to design has made him a standout in the industry for decades. As a long-standing brand partner, he has a devoted following with our customers who gravitate toward his remarkable craftsmanship and exceptional statements of print and color.

Linda Fargo, SVP, fashion office and director of women’s fashion and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman:

“One really can’t ask for any more from a designer than what Dries Van Noten has given. His appeal cuts such a wide path. Intellectual. Artistic. Practical. Romantic. Democratic. Eccentric. It’s interesting that a person as steady and calm as Dries could season after season, upset norms, create beautiful dramas, and give us permission to dress without boundaries. We came to expect the unexpected! And he delivered on that with his utterly unique cultural and referential mash ups and raucous color and print mixes. Women related to his easy way of letting masculine and feminine codes coexist before it was a discussion and his almost shocking clashes of utilitarian dressing played back to flou and unexpected bits of feathers. They were so desirable partially because they were trendless. They allowed each of us to wear it in our own way. Sounds simple, yet not.  Everything you bought you “collected” and probably still wear. A Dries Van Noten was non-perishable! I think that Dries loved practicality as much as he embraced the joys of frivolity too. Perhaps one of the secrets to his long running success was that Dries has always known exactly who he is, and has stayed true to keeping his business and his designs close at hand, personal and manageable. Things never got out of hand. He’s always been focused. A man with a plan.”

Launch Gallery: Belgian Designer Dries Van Noten Runway Collections From the Archives

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