Quite by accident, I walked into the Dries Van Noten store at the Hilton. I was killing time before my swanky dinner with a girlfriend, and I read a book in which a character who loves vintage clothes raved about a Dries Van Noten suit a boyfriend had once given her.
Dries Van Noten (1958) is a Belgian fashion designer whose father owned a menswear shop and whose grandfather was a tailor. The New York Times once described Dries Van Noten as “one of fashion’s most cerebral designers.”
His style is quite European, meaning to say it borrows cuts and prints from other cultures, applies the latest innovations in fabric design to recreate avant-garde and progressive textiles, and translates all these into clothes for women who are usually not afraid to experiment with new shapes and silhouettes, women who are usually tall and willowy.
Even so, the best of designers must know how to make pieces wearable for women of every size and shape, and Van Noten is no exception to the rule.
Back to my pre-starter stroll. The Van Noten store itself was no ordinary high-end retail space with only cold white walls and nothing to catch the eye but the clothes. Walking into Dries Van Noten was like walking into a private library with warm wooden floors, old furniture, tufted sofas, and shelves with objects which once belonged in Parisian flea markets.
The clothes seemed only part of the genteel decor. Next to clothbound books on the big low coffee table were jewel-hued shoes I wanted to try on immediately.
But it was the clothes! What I saw I fell in love with, even though they were mostly in that most high-maintenance of fabrics—silk. Floaty kimono-inspired blouses, tunics with long full sleeves, silks layered above crisp white shirts. Also clever things like tuxedo-collared halter tops in white cotton pique.
Delicate floral prints, wide-legged pants in champagne and caviar. These were clothes that fluttered with every wave of your hand, every sweep of your arm, these were clothes with a graceful but undeniable presence. If you walked into a room, these fabrics swayed and swished and floated in after you.
These clothes made everything I had seen in all other stores pale in comparison. I might have yearned last week for a sapphire pendant encircled with diamonds (all man-made, of course), and yesterday, I might have wanted to try on a delicious summer dress, but Dries Van Noten just about took my breath away.