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Dries Van Noten to Step Down

The Belgian designer will step down as creative director of his namesake fashion house following its June menswear show, he announced in a letter to fashion editors Tuesday.
Dries Van Noten during the Dries Van Noten Menswear Autumn/Winter 2024/25 show at Paris Fashion Week in January 2024.
Dries Van Noten during the Dries Van Noten Menswear Autumn/Winter 2024/25 show at Paris Fashion Week in January 2024. (Getty Images)

Dries Van Noten will step down as creative director of his namesake fashion label following its June menswear show, the designer announced in a letter to fashion editors Tuesday.

The Spring/Summer 2025 womenswear collection to be shown in September will be designed by his studio as the brand, owned by Spanish perfume giant Puig, works to identify a successor.

“I want to shift my focus to all the things I never had time for,” Van Noten’s statement read. “I feel it’s time to leave room for a new generation of talents to bring their vision to the brand.”

After founding his brand in 1986, Van Noten went on to become a leading voice in the fashion conversation for almost four decades, outlasting his contemporaries in a wave of Belgian creators including Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester — fellow graduates of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts — who shook up the fashion system in the 1990s.

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But long before attending the Antwerp Academy, Van Noten was surrounded by fashion: he grew up the grandchild of tailors; his parents ran a fashion boutique.

At his namesake brand, Van Noten developed a trademark approach that blended deftly cut, just-louche-enough garments with improbable combinations of texture, colour and prints. The aesthetic projected a unique mix of intellectualism and playfulness, captivating devotees.

In his letter Tuesday, Van Noten thanked the “fabric and accessories suppliers, ateliers and manufacturers, the embroiderers in India” who have helped to bring his vision to life.

Van Noten staged emotionally stirring runway shows, transforming stark spaces with set pieces like canopies of open umbrellas, fairy lights or, in the case of Spring/Summer 2005 (which BoF’s editor-at-large Tim Blanks deemed one of fashion’s best-ever runway shows) chandeliers that lifted away to make room for models to walk down an immense banquet table.

Slow-burn soundtracks underscore the drama of his collections, with selections ranging from selections like Ravel’s Bolero to a remix of Sade’s Haunt Me, which accompanied his most recent show in February, a symphony of challenging hues like frosty citron yellow, bronze and lilac that flaunted his confident colour work. The clothes don’t always photograph well, but in a social media-saturated era some fashion editors posit that only makes them more chic.

After years of going it alone in a punishing climate for independent labels, Van Noten sold a majority interest in his Antwerp-based company to Puig in 2018. Since then, the Spanish owner of labels like Paco Rabanne and cosmetics brand Charlotte Tilbury has worked with Van Noten to expand into new product categories like perfume and lipsticks, launch e-commerce, open new stores and strengthen operations.

Succession will likely pose a major challenge for Puig, which has made giving a long leash to charismatic founders like Tilbury and Van Noten a hallmark of its strategy in recent years.

As founder, Van Noten is in many ways irreplaceable, and identifying and onboarding a successor will be no easy feat. The brand will need to strike the right balance between creating excitement for the brand’s new chapter while keeping Van Noten’s loyal following engaged.

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Dries Van Noten to Step Down

Parallels with fellow “Antwerp Six” designer Ann Demeulemeester — who also retired from the industry in a letter to editors at the height of her powers — come to mind. Her business (albeit far smaller than Van Noten’s) has struggled to find a steady footing ever since.

Other houses have weathered the departure of charismatic founders, however. Following the death of founder Lee McQueen, longtime protegé Sarah Burton managed to pilot steady growth for Kering-backed Alexander McQueen. Maison Margiela is also thriving under OTB’s ownership and the creative leadership of marquee designer John Galliano.

In his letter Tuesday, Van Noten said he was sure “the DVN future remains bright.”

“The brand is now blooming. Like in a garden, you decide what to plant; and at some point, it continues to flourish,” Van Noten said.

Further Reading

Dries Van Noten’s Empire of the Senses

‘I can’t complain about the business,’ said the designer as he turned a rundown 18th-century mansion in Paris into a Wunderkammer for his latest collection and the launch of his new fragrance and beauty offering.

Inside Puig’s Transformation Through M&A

Dries Van Noten, Charlotte Tilbury, Byredo… While reinforcing its position in designer fragrances, the Spanish owner of Paco Rabanne and Jean Paul Gaultier has diversified its business with an acquisition spree. CEO Marc Puig unpacks the strategy.

About the author
Robert Williams
Robert Williams

Robert Williams is Luxury Editor at the Business of Fashion. He is based in Paris and drives BoF’s coverage of the dynamic luxury fashion sector.

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