Dries Van Noten and Kris Van Assche – two designers with different points of view on fashion and they have one thing in common: the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

Here, in 1963, the school launched the ‘Fashion Design’ department. This course became world leading in the early eighties, with the “The Antwerp Six”: Dirk Bikkembergs, Walter Van Beirendonck, Marina Yee, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene and Ann Demeulemeester. The group was a hot issue in the media. Stylistically extremely diverse, these young friends had a huge impact on the contemporary fashion scene. Since then, the fashion program attracted more and more talents from all over the globe:  Martin Margiela, Haider Ackermann¸ Kris Van Assche.

We love the cerebral designs and digitally inspired patterns of Dries Van Noten and the homage to a nonchalant, distinctive elegance of Kris Van Assche. The two designers are representative for different generations and still at the present they overlap and design for the contemporary client.

One is flamboyant by use of prints, colors, original fabrics and layering, the other is often minimalist, his clothes being characterized by an almost religious attention to details.

Follow us and read on a selected patchwork of answers from interviews took to the two designers. We’ll find out their opinions on different subjects, from life experiences to fashion related issues.


Dries Van Noten: Van Noten’s father had a fashion emporium 20 miles outside of town, “a destination store, which was a new concept back in the early 1970s,” the designer explains. “I think by my father owning a store, I was definitely aware of the commercial aspect of selling clothes. His shop was a place I enjoyed spending time in as a boy, so I learned things almost by osmosis at times, by literally just being around all the action and not really despite myself. “

Kris Van Assche: “I grew up in a conservative environment with little space for creativity and personality. I must not have been much older than six when I first started questioning the clothes I was supposed to wear. I realised somebody was making them, and I wanted to be that person.”


Dries Van Noten:  A month into his studies, Dries Van Noten recalls, “I told my father, ‘I love designing so much I don’t think I’m going to take over the company. I want to be a fashion designer.’ And he became so angry. He said, ‘If that is the case, you can study what you want, but I won’t pay for it.’ ” Van Noten picked up freelance design gigs for an assortment of companies to pay his way through school.


Kris Van Assche: “I was 18 when I started at college,” he recalls. “I was the youngest student there and I certainly wasn’t the best. I had no experience; all I had was my passion. So I had to fight my way up. In the first year there were 150 students and by the last, there were only seven left. I mean, there’s no room for 150 Belgian designers a year and I’m not even sure there’s room for seven. But by some miracle, I ended up being one of those seven.


Dries Van Noten: Dries Van Noten refers to color as the matière première, the raw materials from which to begin, explaining its importance in bringing to life the garment, a vital expression of its wearer and an intricate part of who they are. I get the feeling process is more important than product as he explains how colours take shape, how he will play with the colours, even “ugly” colours, and watch their evolution.

Kris Van Assche: When asked if he has a grudge against the colors, Van Assche replied: “On the contrary, I love them. But I find that they are unsuited to fast menswear, they graze disguise. On the contrary, I have often used very strong colors for women. Blood red, blue, yellow.”


Dries Van Noten: Art, for me, is a big inspiration.  It’s part of my research, but “research” sounds really straightforward. For me, it’s more in a poetic, emotional way that I look at things like that. An idea, a concept, sometimes just a color, just one small element of an artwork.

Kris Van Assche: “When you see too clearly where things come from, you’ve only done half of the job. I’m supposed to take a reference and then rethink it, rework it, digest it, remold it, and then make it into something for 2014 or 2015. That’s what I call fashion design. If not, it’s costume design.”



Dries Van Noten: I really want to show reality, not some kind of theory, like, “This is the way that fashion could look like, but you’ll never be able to get it.” For me, it’s a reality that I want to show. Okay, maybe a beautiful reality, maybe a reality shown with girls who are all 180 centimeters and boys who are 188 centimeters tall, but still it’s a reality.

“I like to have happy people around me, and it’s for these people that I create my collections. Fashion should never be too dark or too gloomy: it should evoke feelings of joy. I believe in clothes as tools for self-expression. The biggest compliment is if I see someone on the street wearing something I have created in a way I would never have imagined. Clothes should always tell something of the person that wears them – and very little of the designer who made them.”

Kris Van Assche: “A lot of fashion houses design for the catwalk and not the street—then you see the clothes on a regular guy and it’s a mess. Don’t disguise your personality behind labels; impose it on the clothes.”

“Fashion is totally necessary, even if it’s considered superficial by some. Life is tough for everybody. We constantly work, are stressed, are in a rush to get things done—so all the simple things that embellish everyday life have become really impor- tant. Fashion is one of the things that can make a dull day seem beautiful. Clothes make you feel nice. No one can deny that.”

All this being said, we leave you to absorb this bouquet of inspirational statements from the two designers. For examples of their exquisite creations check out our handpicked selection of sunglasses: Dries Van Noten & Kris Van Assche.

sources:,,,,,,,, | photo: Dries Van Noten, photo by Alex de Brabant; Kris Van Assche, photo by Bruno Staub.