Skip to main content

EXCLUSIVE: Dries Van Noten Dives Into Fragrance, Beauty

The designer is launching his first perfume and lipstick collection starting March 2.

PARIS — Dries Van Noten approached fragrance and lipstick just like he sets about creating his fashion, garden or home decor: with a clash of concepts and a riot of colors, prints and textures.

When joining the Puig group in 2018, the designer knew right away he wanted to dive into the world of perfume and beauty.

“We started quite immediately exchanging ideas and working on concepts,” he said. “I don’t go for the easy way. As I make garments for a lot of different types of people, it would be strange to do a dictate of perfume, that you say: ‘This is the only smell.’ I wanted really to have quite a range.”

On March 2, the initial results will launch, as the designer unveils his debut beauty effort: a collection of 10 fragrances, 30 lipsticks, plus accessories.

He has been sensitive to scent since childhood.

Related Galleries

“When I was in the kitchen, I put my nose in all the pots and in the oven to smell what was there,” said Van Noten. “I remember very clearly my mother using Shalimar. The moment I was growing up, I immediately started to experiment with smells and perfumes.”

You May Also Like

He loves the whole universe of scent — especially its gesture, tradition, packaging and mystery.

Traditional simple, transparent bottles, with the name of the perfume simply slapped on a label, wouldn’t do, either.

“The bottles really have to reflect everything which I’m standing for, the way I think in a creative way, clashing and combining things,” said Van Noten. Ditto for the perfumes themselves.

Makeup also syncs well with Van Noten’s love of color play. He has had years of experience choosing cosmetics looks for his fashion brand’s hundred-plus shows and photo shoots.

“When you see all those possibilities you have to create things and to change the look of a woman or a man by just making the eyes a little bit more mysterious, a little bit darker to make the mouth more visible,” said Van Noten.

Ana Trias Arraut, chief brands officer of Carolina Herrera, Dries Van Noten and Nina Ricci, fashion and beauty, at Puig, said they wanted to take the time “to bring something into the market that would be really relevant and not seen [before]. It was interesting to see from Puig’s side Dries pushing it without knowing the industry standards. He didn’t categorize the market like we did. He saw it as a whole world altogether. It created a very nice dialogue.”

The focus on gestures translated into creams and soaps being part of the line from the outset.

Van Noten eschewed convention altogether. He invited perfumers to his gardens and home near Antwerp, Belgium. There, they could smell Osmanthus as flowers on a tree, not just as an essence in a vial.

“That was really nice,” said Van Noten.

At home, he layers interiors with flea market finds and valuable objects.

“I don’t look to the traditional order of things. High art, low art — I just look at everything the same way. For me, something perfectly beautiful is boring. I always want that something is more surprising. I want to have a clash…in the same way that I combine my fabrics. The moment everything is fitting together too well, I start to get nervous, and I want to disturb it.”

That gives people a different vantage point, too, he explained.

Van Noten finds gardening both relaxing and a challenge, due to the color selection.

“I take risks also in the garden,” he said, adding it’s a place for dog-walking, as well. “Going to see the smallest flower, which is maybe flowering in the middle of winter, like witch hazel — you appreciate a tiny flower, and you’re really happy.

“Of course in spring, in the month of May, it’s rhododendrons, it’s azaleas — with all the smells which come with [them],” Van Noten continued. “It’s an orgy of flowers and colors. As a human being, you learn a lot from working in or having a garden, walking in nature.”

He has another garden, of roses — a favorite flower. “Again, we put strange contrasts,” said Van Noten. “Sometimes the most beautiful rose I clashed with a very bright neon rose. I did combinations which are not really following the rules. This reflects then, also, in the perfumes.”

There are two rose-based fragrances in the collection, but they’re mixed with diverse olfactive notes to differing effects.

Perfumers chosen to work on the fragrances were not risk-averse, and came from various houses, including IFF, Givaudan and Firmenich. Van Noten found their creations both fascinating and surprising.

For Raving Rose, Louise Turner set out to mix an “ultra-modern and spicy” scent. Nicolas Bonneville fashioned the Cannabis Patchouli perfume, while Nicolas Beaulieu conceived Voodoo Chile, with notes of rosemary and patchouli.

Each scent contains at least 85 percent natural ingredients.

“Dries [induced perfumers] to have these impossible combinations,” said Trias Arraut. “He pushed them to create the same way he is creating, to innovate.”

“It was not easy to select which 10 we are going to use now,” said Van Noten.

After fragrance conception? “You really had to dress every perfume,” the designer said.

So he thought of what person would wear the perfume and what bottle he or she would like.

Fleur du Mal, by Quentin Bisch, which features an Osmanthus note, comes in a tortoiseshell-inspired base holding a violet glass bottle. Marie Salamagne’s Soie Malaquais, with chestnut and vanilla notes, comes in dark burgundy glass combined with a porcelain piece inspired by Delft blue.

The apothecary-like bottles are made of responsibly sourced, recyclable materials, including glass treated five different ways — from opaque to having gradient colors, aluminium and wood.

“We tried to do bottles that really spoke for the juices they had inside,” said Trias Arraut.

Each silver-colored bottle cap has Dries Van Noten engraved on it.

For the perfumes’ monikers, the working names coined by the perfumers often stuck. Fragrances fashioned the appellations, in other words.

Van Noten will launch 30 lipsticks, of which 15 have satin, 10 have matte and five have sheer finishes. There’s also a lip balm. The bulk of each can be added to any of four available outer cases, which are as joyously decorated with colors and prints as the fragrances.

Dries Van Noten lipsticks
Dries Van Noten lipsticks Courtesy of Dries Van Noten

Sustainability was a must from the outset for Van Noten’s beauty collection. The perfume bottles are refillable and reusable. Pouches are made of unused fabric from the fashion brand. And there’s no plastic foil surrounding the outer boxes made of paper pulp.

“I love also the connotation because normally, you buy eggs in the supermarket in paper pulp, and now you buy a precious bottle of perfume that is also quite fragile with incredible content,” said Van Noten. “All those things I really enjoyed.”

“Ethics and authenticity are at the heart of everything Dries does,” added Trias Arraut.

The new fragrance and makeup line are due out starting March 2 in Dries Van Noten boutiques and on the brand’s website. Other select retailers will begin selling the collection at the end of April or early May.

A 100-ml. eau de parfum will retail for either 220 euros or 240 euros, while a lipstick is 35 euros. The collection includes, as well, two eaux de cologne, soap, cream, combs and drawstring pouches.