EXCLUSIVE: Dries Van Noten Is Stepping Down

Marking the end of an era for a beloved and singular designer, a search for a successor to Dries Van Noten quietly commenced in recent months, according to market sources.

Contacted by WWD, the acclaimed Belgian designer confirmed he is stepping down in June, after nearly four decades in fashion — and a glorious, slow-building fashion career.

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His last show in his current role will be his men’s show for the spring 2025 season, scheduled for Paris Fashion Week.

“In due time, we will announce the designer who will continue the story,” Van Noten said in a statement shared exclusively with WWD. “I have been preparing for this moment for a while, and I feel it’s time to leave room for a new generation of talents to bring their vision to the brand.”

Synonymous with ravishing colors, striking prints and dignified dressing tinged with exotic details, Van Noten forged a succession roadmap when he sold a majority stake in his Antwerp-based house to Puig in 2018.

Dries Van Noten in spectacular collaboration with Christian Lacroix, spring 2020.
Dries Van Noten in spectacular collaboration with Christian Lacroix, spring 2020.

At the time of the transaction, Puig said Van Noten would remain “over the long-term a significant minority shareholder” and would “continue as chief creative officer and chairman of the board.”

While particulars were not disclosed at the time, the designer had committed to stay for a minimum of five years, sources told WWD.

It is understood the initial list of potential successors to Van Noten includes promising number-two designers, which have been implicated in many recent designer appointments, including at Tod’s, Bally, Alexander McQueen and Moschino.

Conversations with designers in Europe have already taken place, sources said. However, the timeline and other particulars about the search could not immediately be learned.

The next Dries Van Noten women’s collection “will be made by my studio team with whom I have been working very closely during all these years. I have full confidence that they will do a great job,” Van Noten said in the statement. “In due time, we will announce the designer who will continue the story.

“However, I will stay involved in the house that I treasure so much,” he added.

Dries Van Noten
Dries Van Noten

“We respect Dries’ wish to step aside, after an exceptional 38-year career in fashion,” Marc Puig, chairman and chief executive officer of Puig, said in a separate statement shared with WWD. “It is a distinct honor for Puig to now be entrusted with carrying his legacy into the future, and a unique responsibility we will treasure as a new and exciting chapter opens for both Dries and the brand.

“The relationship we have with founders, even after their retirement, has long been a defining factor for Puig’s success, and we look forward to continuing our personal and professional friendship as Dries remains involved in the brand to work on certain projects,” he added.

A beloved figure on the fashion and retail scene, Van Noten has won numerous awards, including the WWD Honor for Designer of the Year in 2023, and the CFDA’s International Designer of the Year in 2008. He has also been decorated by Fashion Group International, the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT and the Flemish Royal Academy of Belgium.

A 2014 exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris probed how pop culture, fine objects and paintings shaped Van Noten’s aesthetic, also detailing his career-long collaboration with embroiderers in India.

Backstage at Dries Van Noten RTW Fall 2024 as part of Paris Ready to Wear Fashion Week held on February 28, 2024 in Paris, France.
Backstage at Dries Van Noten fall 2024 as part of Paris Fashion Week held on Feb. 28, 2024, in Paris.

The designer is 65 years old, and has many outside interests beyond fashion, including a passion for gardening.

“As a young guy from Antwerp, my dream was to have a voice in fashion. Through a journey that brought me to London, Paris and beyond, and with the help of countless supportive people, that dream came true,” he told WWD. “Now I want to shift my focus to all the things I never had the time for. I’m sad, but at the same time happy.”

While Van Noten is involved in many aspects of the business beyond design, Puig has in recent years fortified management ranks at the company, tapping Axel Keller, who had been CEO of Jil Sander, as president.

Keller had a long career as commercial director for top designer brands in France, most notably Balenciaga, where he was commercial director for 14 years, and at Maison Margiela, where he held that role for 13 years.

One of the original Antwerp Six, and arguably the one who has had the most enduring impact on womenswear and menswear, Van Noten comes from a family of tailors and is a graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He launched his label with menswear in 1986, and established his flagship store, known as Het Modepaleis and located on the site of a historic department store, in his hometown in 1989.

Backstage at Dries Van Noten Men's Fall 2024
Backstage at Dries Van Noten men’s fall 2024.

Like many Belgian designers, Van Noten has resisted most of the common paths to growth, forgoing pre-collections, advertising, celebrity dressing and a handbag push.

But since linking up with Puig, he has opened more freestanding boutiques, launched a range of fragrances and lipsticks, and combined his fashion and beauty worlds in a newfangled boutique concept in Paris mingling accessories and beauty products.

In disclosing 2023 financial results, Puig flagged that Van Noten ranks as its fastest-growing niche brand.

The Spanish group’s fashion portfolio also includes Carolina Herrera, Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci and Rabanne.

Gaultier retired from the runway in 2020, and continues to select guest couturiers for his Paris-based house. Carolina Herrera brought in designer Wes Gordon as her wingman for a short period and then fully handed over the design reins in 2018.

The Dries Van Noten beauty and accessories boutique in Paris.
The Dries Van Noten beauty and accessories boutique in Paris.

“Since Puig became part of our business, we could continue to grow the way we wanted to,” Van Noten said, citing the addition of beauty and perfume lines, the expansion of the accessories, the addition of e-commerce and new and innovative stores.

“The brand is now blooming. Like in a garden, you decide what to plant, and at some point, it continues to flourish,” he said. “Seeing our clothes out in the world, knowing they have a place in your life, has fulfilled me beyond words.

“I am sure of this: the DVN future remains bright,” he concluded.

— With contributions from Samantha Conti (London)

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