If you’re the sort of person who happens to take an interest in such things, then picture for a moment the Antwerp Six: that infamous band of Belgian designers who packed their 1986 graduate collections into a van and preceded to take LFW by storm. What springs to mind immediately? Perhaps its the dark, Romantic vision of Patti Smith-confidante, Ann Demeulemeester. Maybe the outlandish cartoon creations of Walter Van Beirendonck or even the most famous of them all (the unofficial member-who-never-actually-was), Mr Martin Margiela.
What’s curious is that Dries Van Noten, arguably the most consistently brilliant of them all, manages to recede so often into the background. In the context of such larger than life characters (Margiela having gained near-mythological status even), the mild-mannered Van Noten is often characterised as the conservative of the group.
Which is a little unfair really. It’s true, Van Noten may be a private person both personally and in business (the brand does no advertising and has resisted the overtures of a buy-out over the years to remain wholly owned by its eponymous creator). Most importantly though, and despite generally adhering more closely to conventional silhouettes than his Antwerp contemporaries, the striking prints, patterns and textures he puts down the runway each season elicit adulation in the way that few designers do.
And of course what would a good print and pattern-centric designer be without an unwavering devotion to florals. Across both menswear and womenswear, Van Noten achieves the remarkable feat of elevating his floral patterns in a way that somehow feels both decadent and vaguely subversive. This remains the case whatever collection you dip into: blowing up and blowing out a motif of oversized petals on a blazer in a way that appears tie-dyed at first glance; painting elegant Japanese blooms across silken shirting; even just piling flowery pattern upon flowery pattern in ways that should never work yet somehow always, perfectly, does.
So below we salute some of our favourite florals from the Belgian designer: extravagance conjured from understatement.