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Men’s Paris Preview: Q&A With Dries Van Noten

Born into a family of tailors, Dries Van Noten has been designing men’s and women’s wear under his own label since the mid-Eighties.

PARIS — Born into a family of tailors, Dries Van Noten has been designing men’s and women’s wear under his own label since the mid-Eighties. WWD caught up with the Belgian designer on the eve of his spring 2010 show tonight to discuss the collection and get his views on creating apparel for men.

This story first appeared in the June 25, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

WWD: What is the mood of the spring collection?
Dries Van Noten: We are working on something which is very elegant and sartorial…and mixed to a kind of ethnic chic.

WWD: That sounds like quite an evolution from your January show. What prompted the transition?
D.V.N.: For me, it’s not a huge shift, going from one thing to another. It has more to do with the fact that I wanted to find another approach to ethnic, making it very smart, elegant and sartorial. Immediately it gives it a different feel. Almost all the fabrics are handmade, handwoven and hand-printed. We are also using some very high-technological fabrics, as well as traditional English wool.

WWD: When you design men’s wear, do you have anyone in mind?
D.V.N.: There are a lot of different people that I want to design [for] but I don’t limit myself….It can be a young guy somewhere walking in the street or it can be Prince Charles.

WWD: How do you see men’s wear evolving?
D.V.N.: I think that what is good about fashion in this moment is that there are so many different options. What you wear says something about you. It’s a kind of fashion design symbol or status — something like that. Some people wearing just casual, others vintage, and others still mixing designer [clothes] with whatever.…All those people are considered fashionable and that’s what I like.

WWD: Is there greater demand for creativity today, given that consumers are buying less?
D.V.N.: For me, creativity has always been important. Of course, people are pickier now and thinking more before they buy something. So you really have to surprise them. I don’t think it’s right to try to make something which pleases them, because clients are always one step ahead of what you think they are going to want. So I think you have to really surprise them so they start to ask themselves if they like it or not and to really catch their interest.

WWD: What do you like most about designing?
D.V.N.: Both for men’s and women’s, I loved the fact that we have to create the fabrics. It is the most fun.

WWD: What is the biggest challenge of designing men’s wear?
D.V.N.: You have to surprise men, but you mustn’t design things that are impossible. You have to make things which they can get used to. I think it’s important to find the right balance.

WWD: What is the one pleasure that you have designing men’s wear that you don’t have in women’s wear?
D.V.N.: I can try the clothes on myself.…The feeling, the comfort and the pleasure of wearing some pieces, for the feeling that it gives to you, it’s very important. Even when something is too small for me, I put it on anyway just to touch the fabric.