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No, Dries Van Noten’s Clothes Aren’t Boring Highsnobiety

You don’t get to Dries Van Noten’s level of tenure by reinventing yourself every season. Or so you may think.

The most visible member of the Antwerp Six is frequently labeled as "consistent," "minimalistic," and "measured." He doesn’t "rely on gimmicks" and reviews of his runway shows often grant Van Noten the highest praise for simply making "a classic coat."

The odd expectation that’s perpetually levied upon Dries Van Noten, simply because he’s such an institution, is that he will deliver a Dries Van Noten collection every season. Classic clothes rendered classically beautiful.

But what even is a Dries Van Noten collection? What does that mean? And why classic?

“’Classic’ and ‘timeless’ — maybe they’re a little too safe [as descriptors],” Van Noten recently told me in his Highsnobiety Magazine cover story. “Fashion has to be created by newness, surprise, beauty. ”

Really, the only consistent thing about Dries Van Noten is that his collections are hardly ever consistent. The only throughline is perceptibly gorgeous clothes, real clothes made to a standard of quality untouchable by many so-called "luxury" peers. Each season, they’re wildly different, fun and sober and weird and wearable and unlike what came before.

Similar to how Van Noten has acquired this reputation for consistently producing nice, ordinary clothes, his runways have become associated with familiarity. Because he doesn’t do spectacle or contrivance, it’s easily to think that Van Noten’s shows are predictable, even when they’ve only consistently been anything but.

It’s true that Van Noten’s catwalks aren’t as, say, dynamic as the headline-baiting stunts that go viral but that’s simply because they’re stripped of artifice. His shows are only "boring" in the same way that reading books is "boring": these presentations are meant to be drunk in, slowly digested like a fine meal savored with wine.

The point is to pedestal the clothes. And Van Noten’s clothes certainly are not boring either.

Look to the Dries Van Noten man as evidence.

This year, he’s clad in a shredded tanktop layered beneath a bomber printed with text so large it spilled out over his shoulders. Last winter, he’d bundled up in a hourglass-shaped double-breasted coat over a lacey turtleneck. That summer, he’d lounged around in an opaque, oversized football jersey, water-repellent floral pants, and fur-trimmed slippers.

If you see anything "consistent" or "minimal," let me know.

Van Noten’s output is intentionally and wildly varied, grounded solely by a deep-rooted love of real craft. The designer may have the body of a 65-year-old but he has the restlessly inventive mind of a TikTok-crazed kid.

Indeed, though Van Noten isn’t on the app himself, members of his studio frequently show him TikToks — for inspiration, for fun, for his reaction alone.

Thus, each season feels markedly fresh. Look at any of his recent shows back to back and witness the disparity in theme and style. The shows aren’t bombastic because the clothes actually are.

It’s all drawn from the things that inspired Van Noten and his team in the moment, the creative delicacies that that they’re all mentally snacking on at that given moment.

And, sure, within each Dries Van Noten collection, you’ll find imminently wearable jackets, shirts, trousers. Timeless stuff that can (and should) be treasured for life.

But the actual clothes are as vivacious as anything produced by the enfants terribles du jour. Their vivacity is tamped down, mildly, by sophisticated styling and unpretentious runway shows but you can’t convince me that shirts woven with gilded sequins and pants cut with a trench coat-skirt are boring.

It’s merely a sign of the times that real wearable clothes, the kind that Van Noten specializes in, aren’t as memetic as the big Fashion Week spectacles that take over timelines every season. But they were never meant to be. And they certainly aren’t boring.

Visit Highsnobiety to view this part of the article.

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