Dries Van Noten Is Stepping Down

After 38 years and well over 100 collections, Dries Van Noten will take his final bow this summer. In a letter released on Tuesday, the Belgian designer announced that he is stepping down from his namesake label following his upcoming men’s show in June.

“Now, I want to shift my focus to all the things I never had the time for,” Van Noten wrote.

The brand, which was acquired by Spanish luxury group Puig in 2018, will continue under new creative leadership. “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,” stated Van Noten, adding that though he will stay involved, the next designer of DVN will be announced “in due time.”

Van Noten’s retirement follows several years of growth and expansion. With the support of Puig, the brand introduced perfume and beauty, launched e-commerce, and opened several new stores. His menswear hit a particularly exciting register, too. Known for his mastery of prints and inspired sense of color, Van Noten practically defined the summer of 2019 with a poppy, ubiquitous Verner Panton collaboration. Post-pandemic, he introduced numerous compelling propositions for how to modernize tailoring through fluid silhouettes and feminized proportions. He proved he still had new tricks off the runway, too, introducing a radical collaboration with Stüssy in 2022. It felt like Van Noten was still at the top of his game.

Which makes his decision to step down—or step back—all the more significant. A member of the famed Antwerp Six, Van Noten, 65, could have presumably remained in his role as long as he wanted. Fashion is a fickle business, but the role of creative director is basically a lifetime appointment when your name is on every store shingle. Many of Van Noten’s peers seem determined to see out their days taking runway bow after bow. Van Noten has always run his business with integrity and foresight; his decision to give up creative control, and make room for new talent, acknowledges a reality many others want to avoid.

Still, in the hours after the surprise announcement, reactions from industry insiders and fashion fans alike were emotional. Van Noten represents a dying breed of designer, someone who makes interesting high fashion for real people. His collections strike a unique balance between newness and timeless, between color-clashing prints and exquisite lines. He is a romantic, but is also deliberate and analytical. As he told GQ in 2018, “For men, one of the rules I apply is that you can’t change all the prints and the color and the shapes. You can’t do a strange shape and a strange color, because then you get something a guy doesn’t connect with.”

In an era where luxury is increasingly related to celebrity, and cycles through trends at the speed of TikTok, Van Noten always took his customers utterly seriously, delivering garments that could make them the most interesting person in a room—and that could be worn day-to-day for years. In his letter, Van Noten hailed his enduring audience, writing, “My heartfelt appreciation to everybody who loves what we do. Seeing our clothes out in the world, knowing they have a place in your life, has fulfilled me beyond words.”

Now, the speculation will turn to his successor. Former Sies Marjan designer and Dries Van Noten protégé Sander Lak will certainly be in the conversation, along with other Antwerp-connected talents and the crop of young superstars whose names are always connected to new job postings. But Van Noten still has one more men’s show, sure to be the hottest ticket in Paris this June. And after? You’ll likely be able to find Van Noten in his sprawling country garden outside Antwerp.

“What I especially enjoy about the garden is that it forces you to take a break, because in fashion we always try to control everything,” Van Noten told Vogue in 2010. “I’m very hands-on. I really want to be there and to decide everything—the stores, the shows. . . .” But the garden, he said, “has its own rhythm.”

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