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Inspirations: not a retrospective

Inspirations takes you on a journey through the creative mind of fashion designer Dries Van Noten.

For the very first time in his career designer Dries Van Noten discloses his oeuvre in an exhibition. No classical retrospective, but an intimate journey into his artistic universe, revealing the singularity of his creative process, which he illustrates with his numerous sources of inspiration. Van Noten is considered to be one of Belgium’s most influential fashion designers. He is one of the Antwerp Six (who symbolize the rise of Belgian fashion) and is mostly known for his eclectic and bold combination of prints, colors and materials in his designs.

From Paris to Antwerp

The idea for the first Inspirations expo in Paris was conceived when the Musée des arts décoratifs approached Van Noten with the proposal to confront his garments with art pieces from their archive. Out of this grew the need to create a dialogue between his garments and the inspiration he finds not only in art, but also in films, objects, photography and pieces from other designers.


Inspirations is not a retrospective. It looks and feels like a trip through the designer’s universe, with different windows and rooms displaying pieces of one particular collection alongside inspirational works and references. The selection of artworks by Yves Klein, Rothko, Damien Hirst and Pieter Paul Rubens is quite impressive, but not all works should be considered as direct inspirations. Some art pieces are relatively young and are put alongside older pieces by Van Noten and others names and brands such as Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli and Chanel, adding an extra layer to the visualization of the designer’s creative process and interests. To create a balanced image that truly reflects the interaction between different influences, each piece was carefully positioned and not treated as a mere object or decoration.


10 facts about the expo in Antwerp

When entering the exhibition, you see a video including the first silhouette of every Dries Van Noten runway show. At the end, you see all the final silhouettes.  

Van Noten was convinced he had sold his graduation collection, but recently he found two pieces in the attic of his sister in law. They are showcased for the first time.

Van Noten considers Iris Apfel as his muse. When he asked her if he could display some of her jewelry, she agreed, but called him afterwards fearing she had not sent enough. Only half of the jewelry sent is exhibited. 

In India there are about 3.000 people working on all the appliqués. The manufacturers are mainly men and craftsmanship is passed on from father to son.

Van Noten says he recognizes himself in the little monkey pictured in Raqib Shaw’s ‘still life with bush baby II’ that is hanging alongside the Maharaja collection.

Flowers are one of Van Noten’s most renowned trademarks, and therefore deserve a prominent place in the exhibition. The Norwegian scientist and artist Sissel Tolaas, was asked to develop a special olfactory work for Inspirations. Behind the flower room, her installation releases a smell of flowers, moss and the forest whenever visitors pass by.

The wallpaper covering the penultimate room of the exhibition is a reproduction of a Prelle design from 1924. Manufacture Prelle was one of the main collaborators in the restoration of the Palace of Versailles.

The Picasso displayed with the ‘Spain’ collection will only be there for a part of the exhibition. Because it is painted on paper, it has to be put back in the archives after three months. 

After the runway show for AW ’15 that will take place in March, the little curtain in the last room will be opened to reveal a video of the show and its inspirations.


Dries Van Noten - Inspirations
MoMu – Antwerp Fashion Museum

Text: Carmina Lemoine
Photos: Bart Kiggen


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