“It’s not enough to make something beautiful…”

Working alongside Dries Van Noten as head of men’s design for over 20 years, Jürgen Sailer takes us inside the design of a collection, and reveals how embellishment is an integral part of the brand’s DNA.


Dries Van Noten is famous for his way of working patterns and materials. How would you define the spirit of the house?

Eclectic! It’s a style that puts a mix of iconic references together in the silhouette, always looking for a balance between opulence and minimalism. It’s timeless and elegant but plays with imperfection, beauty and ugliness. It’s authentic and honest.

What are your major inspirations?

We draw on a wide variety of sources – art, music, design, dance, travel, history… It might be an atmosphere, an attitude we want to express or just the nature of a colour, whether it’s vibrant or muted. To stay relevant, we also keep an eye on what’s going on in the street and in the fashion world, without letting ourselves get overwhelmed by so much information that it blocks our creativity. Everyone works with the same ingredients but uses different recipes to build their own identity. The real challenge is designing a collection that pushes the limits, that challenges our customers while respecting our own DNA.

Filep Motwary ©Dries Van Noten

Can you describe the process behind creating a print?

We were more limited in the days before digital printing. Each colour had a cost and our multicoloured fabrics cost a fortune! Now we have more freedom and we can use all the colours we want for a reasonable price. This is a huge plus, but digital doesn’t give you the same result. You lose the imperfection, the reality of the print. So, we work with motifs that are drawn by hand before using a computer to perfect them, to create a more artisanal finish.

Is the motif the first step in designing a collection?

First of all, you have to imagine the man or woman you want to dress – their passions, their look… And then the motifs serve to underline the spirit, the atmosphere of a season. Usually, we design the silhouettes on a screen, and then we put in the embroideries, motifs, the jewellery etc., till we arrive at the image we had in mind. Really early on we know what the spirit of the show will be. The challenge is to translate these inspirations into an actual garment. But this first step is essential to communicate to the teams the mood of our new journey.


Which craftsmen do you work with?

We collaborate with Italian, French, English, Japanese and Frenchartisans. Each country has its own identity and particular skills in terms of fabrics. Some still use old looms that give the textile a lot of character. The products we find in Scotland, especially, have a very interesting raw quality. We also work with very talented Indians. Most of our ornamental details are handmade and require great technique, but also a sensitivity to the material. Embellishment has always been important at Dries.

Will it be developed for the men’s line too?

Absolutely. In recent seasons, the collections have become more and more flamboyant and it seems to us that anything is possible. Feminine elements in menswear, for example, are more accepted. Embellishment adds value to a collection, it makes it more visible. But just creating something beautiful isn’t enough, it has to help further an idea. Men want references, a real fashion direction.

Discover the ultra-creative world of decoration and ornamentation studios by visiting Première Vision Designs (Hall 5). Discover a choice of more than 100,000 patterns, embroideries and appliqué motifs, knits, fabrics, transfer-paper, vintage…and let yourself be inspired by the latest trends in creative textiles and surface designs in our “Crazy Designs Market”!

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