Dries Van Noten designed for people who dress with individuality – he’ll be sorely missed

Dries Van Noten
Dries Van Noten retired from the fashion world at Paris Fashion Week Men's - WWD

A flutter of silver, a modest bow and a mouthed ‘thank you’ delivered by the standing ovation that cheered on. With that, Dries Van Noten bowed out of fashion forever.

During Paris Fashion Week Men’s, the influential designer bid his farewell having announced back in March that he would be leaving his namesake brand. The retirement plan is to go off into the sunset with partner Patrick Vangheluwe – who works within the house – and enjoy his retirement, instead of staying tied to the four-collections-a-year hamster wheel demanded by the fashion industry.

dries van noten
Dries Van Noten bids his fashion career farewell at Paris Fashion Week Men's - Getty

You might not have heard of Dries Van Noten – he’s not as widely known as other living fashion titans like Giorgio Armani or Dolce & Gabbana – but that’s entirely how he likes it. The 66-year-old is an arch non-conformist who confounds expectations and prefers to cater to a curated few who appreciate his nuanced point of view on clothes, rather than the masses. And in doing so, he created a legacy that’s entirely singular and specific to him.

What does that mean for the clothes? A tension between the exacting and precise, and the whimsical and joyously expressive. Van Noten was raised in Antwerp and attended a Jesuit school, but later found himself immersed in the counterculture music scene of Belgium in the 70s and 80s. That duality carries through beautifully in what he designs; an immaculately tailored suit in sombre pinstripes, alongside vividly patterned shirts or trousers riddled in sequins and embroidery.

Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
Karen Elson walking the Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 runway on Saturday - Getty
Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
Van Noten's designs possess 'a tension between the exacting and precise, and the whimsical and joyously expressive,' writes Doig - Getty
Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 - Getty

He became part of a historic fashion movement called the ‘Antwerp Six’ – a collective of Belgian designers – such as Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck – who studied at the city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Both were present at the farewell event which took place in a giant warehouse in the Saint Denis suburb north of Paris.

They were joined by an ‘Avengers Assemble’ line-up of designers, including Diane Von Furstenburg, Haider Ackermann and Thom Browne. No celebrities, just respected industry figures paying homage to the man who built a brand so unlike anything else in fashion.

“My dream was to have a voice in fashion. That dream came true. Now I want to shift my focus to all the things I never had time for,” Van Noten said. His farewell show could have gone down the path of nostalgia, but instead he focused on a modern rendering of his version of dressing for men – someone with a sense of individuality rather than conformity. There were gleaming metallics jackets and coats, blousy parks in juicy ice-cream colours, shirts and blazers riddled with embroidery and transparent layers.

Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
'Juicy ice-cream colours' featured on the runway - Getty
Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
As did gleaming metallics jackets and coats - Getty
Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 - Getty

Van Noten created a spectacle in the staging of the show – thousands of squares of fluttering silver foil made up the catwalk which erupted once models traversed across it, glistening slivers dancing through the air. One of the most memorable fashion moments I have ever encountered, as it happens, was a Dries Van Noten show in 2016 where guests watched the show on the stage of the Opéra Garnier in Paris, Chagall frescoes overhead. It was pertinent that Van Noten chose his last show as a menswear showcase – he initially began in men’s clothing, only branching into women’s after he noticed that women were buying his tailoring and shirting.

Dries Van Noten Menswear Spring/Summer 2025
Dries Van Noten choose modernity over nostalgia for his final collection - Getty

Van Noten said he’s got big plans afoot, but will in the first instance take a long holiday. He’s not a man who lives in a bubble of fashion mania (as so many designers do); he loves his garden, his homes in Belgium and on the Amalfi Coast, his dog. He loves cooking. He’s going to take time to appreciate those things, rather than living in a system that demands constant newness.

Alongside his unique aesthetic – there’s a particular tribe of acolytes, of which I happen to be one, who can spot his clothes at thirty paces – Van Noten is unusual in that his business remained entirely independent, until he sold a majority share to Spanish fragrance conglomerate Puig in 2018, presumably to shore up the company and plan his exit strategy.

In today’s fashion landscape, it’s rare to have the privilege of watching a designer, especially one who still helms his own house, bid adieu – so many working for big-name houses are unceremoniously fired or move houses in a never-ending game of musical chairs. Van Noten’s farewell was so wonderfully, evocatively ‘him’, down to the final outfit – a severe black coat paired with gauzy, iridescent trousers.

Dries Van Noten thanked the cheering crowds as he took his final bow, but the swell of gratitude very much went both ways.