As one of several Kings and Queens of Prints, Belgian designer Dries Van Noten twice a year brings out a new collection of clothes, many of which bear his signature prints and patterns. Having always had a strong ethnic touch to his aesthetic, the Antwerp Six designer has of late developed his taste but still keeps the designs on the subtle and tasteful side of loud and brash. This newish direction was very visible in his latest S/S12 Paris catwalk show, where Van Noten - among other print themes - showed off a print series looking closer at the light patterns produced by a nighttime city.
Using the works of young photographer James Reeve, Van Noten was able to give his 'Lightscape' series a natural home on the catwalk. Clearly inspired by Reeve and pleased with the result, Van Noten has now taken the collaboration one step further by exhibiting all the individual pieces bearing 'Lightscape' photography at his worldwide stores, plus some of the actual shots Reeve took of nighttime London, Beirut, Marseilles and Las Vegas...
Dazed Digital: How and where did you come across James' work?
Dries Van Noten: I was president of the jury for the Hyères fashion festival in 2010. There is always a concurrent festival of photography. James was a finalist and I encountered his 'Lightscapes' series for the first time at the exhibition.
DD: What was it about the photos that you liked?
Dries Van Noten: They offer a different take on cityscapes. All we see in the photos is the landscapes via man made lights; streetlamps; lights in buildings. I thought that this was a very interesting way of thinking about the relationship, constructive and destructive, between colour and nature.
DD: Is there any connection to your own aesthetic?
Dries Van Noten: When we are creating a collection we are always looking for a different approach. Things we have never done before. I saw these photos as an alternate way of taking photos of cities.
DD: You used some images as prints in your S/S12 collection, why did you feel the need to show as an exhibition as well?
Dries Van Noten: It is a way to bring the unison that is born from our collaboration forward to other people who do not necessarily have access to a fashion show. I thought it could be an interesting explanation of how we transposed James Reeve’s work onto our garments. The varying ways images can be presented. When we see a photo and dress beside each other, people can see the craftsmanship and technique that goes into digital printing and hopefully how one element of creation can inspire another.
DD: You use a lot of prints generally speaking - where do you normally find them or the inspiration?
Dries Van Noten: The inspiration from our prints can come from everywhere and anywhere. They can be borne from an image, a movie, an exhibition, a smell, a photo, a concept… Once we find something that we like or we think we could develop we get started. For Spring Summer 2012 we really looked towards prints with elements that we didn’t think were made for printing on textiles, 17th Century engravings or cities by nights mixed with photos of water and palm trees.
DD: You were a judge at the Hyères Festival - how important is photography for you? What role does it play alongside your work as a fashion designer?
Dries Van Noten: As I mentioned, I was president of the Jury for the Fashion Festival. The photography festival was happening at the same location at the same time. Yet, I think the two are absolutely and intrinsically linked, not only for the magazine aspect and the necessity we as designers hold in order for our garments to be seen by our clients but also for the element of creation that goes into them. I am permanently inspired by the work of certain photographers, from a photo taken with a different eye we always see something new.
DD: How do you see the relationship between art/photo and fashion?
Dries Van Noten: It’s a relationship which is constantly developing. I think as the years go on we are witnessing different ways that the two are working side by side. Different collaborations and multiple facets of how the two can work together to best represent the alternate positive aspects within each form of creative expression.
DD: What's next for you?
Dries Van Noten: We are excited by the way our next collections for Men and Women, winter 2012 are shaping up... Remains to be seen!
See the exhibition at Dries Van Noten's stores in Vienna (Nov 17-24), Hong Kong (Nov 29 - Dec 17), Tokyo (Dec 2 -17), Paris (Jan 7- 25)