Featuring Dries Van Noten. In English and Flemish, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
Unlike Valentino, Lauren, and many of the other design titans, Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten is relatively young (60 this spring) and definitely not a seeker of spotlights. Despite, or maybe because of, the outrageously bold collage of floral patterns, deep colours, and disparate styles he stitches together each season for his ready-to-wear collections, Dries himself wears the striped shirts and slacks of an accountant on casual Friday.
He seems an affable-enough employer, showing cool appreciation of the models and helpmates who bring his ideas to life, without the fussy formality of Daniel Day-Lewis’s character in Phantom Thread. But the austere setting of his minimalist atelier suggest a cool punctiliousness that firmly states “I’m working here!” Van Noten is definitely a designaholic, and Patrick Vangheluwe, his business and life partner of several decades, says that he occasionally threatens to take an actual vacation, but nothing comes of it.
As we see in this refreshingly drama-free doc from German director-cinematographer Reiner Holzemer (who mostly works alone, and has also made profiles of photographers Anton Corbijn and William Eggleston), the designer treats travel as part of his job. His company has outposts in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., but the 90-minute film focuses on shows he assembles in Paris, most notably in an empty factory transformed for one-off events that little resemble the catwalk parades we usually see.
This flurry of activity is offset by the relative serenity of his work habits, and by frequent retreats to the couple’s country home, on seven acres of wooded land outside Antwerp. The inviting gardens and free range of modern and antique décor inside reflect Van Noten’s mix-and-match aesthetic, and also his tendency to overthink things.
Elsewhere, the director gets his subject to watch footage of old collections being unveiled and catches his comments, particularly from Van Noten’s “failed” period, when his wild colours and pop-art prints were considered out of step with bare-bones modernism. But time has proven his clothing conceptions more durable than most. In short, just say yes to the Dries.