A corner of Antwerp belongs to a man, whose boutique Het Modepaleis with its 1881 original sign with gold serif typeface affectionately restored, sit on Nationalestraat’s corner. The distinct five-storey triangular building has enough grandeur for a petite department store. Dries Van Noten bought this shop in 1989, three years after he had launch his label in the market. It was perhaps an heroic move for a fledgling company, however the purchase is now the designer’s permanent landmark in the city.
There are times when the shop remains closed and the reason for this that Noten himself gave is that there is somewhat a fashion and business tradition in Antwerp to sell out stuff, then clean up and close the store until the new collection is in and put on shelves for sale. This is a time when people gather as flocks of birds queuing to buy the pieces they particularly want. Only some fashion houses practice such a enchantingly old-fashioned tradition, but it certainly works for Noten who finds many fans just waiting to enter the shop when it opens after a week or so. Van Noten works independently and doesn’t care much about what other designers are doing, he does what he likes.
The designer has over five hundred stockists around the world, and two standalone stores in Paris besides this one. According to a source, his annual turnover is expected to be around fifty-five million Euros. Noten’s heart of business is clothing and is considered to be over ninety percent of his output. The designer flaunts his collections four times in Paris during fashion shows, in which the number of times is broken equally into displaying collections of men and women. In the year 2000, the designer bought an impressive forty-three thousand square feet warehouse and named it as his headquarters. It was in 1993 that Van Noten debuted his women’s collection in a show at Hotel George V, located in Paris.
Noten’s father had hoped that Dries would do a degree in business and manage the family trade, however Dries Van Noten’s dream was much different than his father’s. Noten desired to become a designer, to which his parents did not agree and warned the young man that if he wanted to do something that he likes then Noten has to support himself financially. Although, this seems to be a harsh statement from his parents but this scenario made the designer into a hardworking and self-sufficient man. In 1976, he started off by studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and around the same time financially supported himself by creating clothing designs for other companies. Noten’s aim was to prove that he could turn his talent and zeal into a lucrative business.
The designer is not the only child of his parents, he is in fact the youngest of the four children with one brother and two sisters. At the time when Noten was just a kid, pop music was rising to popularity with David Bowie standing out. There were new TV programs to see and all this fascinated Noten.
In 1986, Noten’s first range of clothes was purchased by Barneys who noticed the Antwerp Six group that included Noten and his contemporaries Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Marina Yee, Dirk Bikkembergs and Ann Demeulemeester. The point of making the group was explained by Noten in an interview with Elle that the designers only wanted was to keep their own spirit and image alive within the boundaries of Antwerp.