A trip to Antwerp wasn’t originally on the roster for my time in Belgium, but when I found out that it was only a short journey from our hotel in Brussels I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to see Dries Van Noten: Inspirations.
The exhibit, which first ran at Paris’ Musee des Arts Decoratifs, is currently on display at Antwerp’s MoMu in Van Noten’s hometown. In past seasons the illusive designer has been known to give single word-explanations to sum up the inspirations behind his collections (such as ‘orientalism’ or ‘gold’). This exhibition represents the first time he is allowing the public behind the proverbial curtain. Rather than follow the typically curated layout of a designer retrospective, the museum chose to displays his work as an exploration into Van Noten’s creative process.
The show highlights a number of collection pieces from the past 30 years juxtaposed with the artistic mediums that inspired the designer. Inspirations run the gamut from cinematic to ethnic to the more traditionally artistic. The wide reaching spectrum of his ideas is astonishingly vast- where else could you find works from Ryan McGinley, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso in the same exhibit? The massive show space makes for a fascinating study of how the designer works.
A quick recap of Dries himself: The designer grew up in Belgium and was a member of the Antwerp Six, a group of acclaimed designers who graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts between ’80-’81 and went on to become hugely influential in the fashion industry. Achieving both critical and commercial acclaim for the eponymous line he founded in ’85, Van Noten continues to produce collections that stand alone in what is often described as an over-saturated industry.
Of course I couldn’t miss spending the rest of the day exploring that little gem of a town. Dries Van Noten’s flagship is just across the street from The MoMu and definitely worth a visit (note that it only houses the womens collection). It’s one thing to study a designer from behind a glass wall, but another thing completely to get to feel the clothes in person.
Later in the day we had lunch at a lovely little organic café called Lunchbox behind the Theaterplein followed by a slightly less healthy fro-yo at Moochie, which ended up being the best frozen yogurt I’ve had in Europe. And last but not least you cannot come to Antwerp without paying a visit to the city’s crown jewel: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal (The Cathedral of Our Lady).
(perched on my throne at Dries)