Dries Van Noten
One of the original Antwerp Six, the group of emerging Belgian designers who transformed the city into an epicenter of avant-garde fashion design in the eighties, Dries Van Noten marked his 20th anniversary in the business in 2005. That's no small feat, considering that his company is entirely self-financed, and that of the Antwerp Six, only two, he and Ann Demeulemeester, retain a prominent role in the industry.
While a brooding, intellectual quality has evolved as the hallmark of Belgian designers, Van Noten continually balances it with what Vogue refers to as his "poetic, ethnic-eclectic" aesthetic. His loyal following remains so thanks to his artful and dynamic prints, intricate embroidery, and the wearable nature of his designs. His signature looks include the floral tent dress, the iris-print blouse, and a chunky sweater layered over pants or a skirt in contrasting patterns.
A sense of restraint pervades his designs, and not surprisingly, Van Noten is known for his politesse. He grew up literally surrounded by fashion, as both his parents owned boutiques. As a boy, he often accompanied his father on buying trips to the collections in Milan, Düsseldorf, and Paris. After studying fashion design at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Van Noten debuted his wares at a trade show in London. Barneys New York snapped up his first collection, and the designer opened his first tiny storefront in Antwerp later that year.
Today, Dries Van Noten boasts five boutiques and is sold in more than 500 stores worldwide. In 2008, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored him with the International Award. He still lives and works in Antwerp.