Dries Van Noten visited Hong Kong for the opening of the “Garments, Lightscapes” exhibition, which showcased part of his spring/summer 2012 collection, featuring unique photographic prints by collaborator James Reeve. Known for his charm and equally charming prints, Van Noten spoke with us about pushing the boundaries of printmaking, while documenting his whirlwind trip in an intimate photo diary exclusively for us.
It has been six years since Van Noten last visited Hong Kong and he flew in especially from Antwerp to attend the Hong Kong leg of his “Garments, Lightscapes” exhibition.
“There’s not much time left before the launch of the next collection [autumn/winter 2012] and it’s also Christmas time. Even though I’m only going away for two nights, people at work already got nervous, asking, ‘ Oh, where are you going?’ That’s why I can’t stay longer,” he says.
Indeed, Dries is one of a few independent fashion designers who owns and runs his business. That means that every decision from fabrics to the décor of each shop is still in his hands after 25 years. Because of this, two nights away from the office seem like a luxury! Although his schedule was packed with meets and greets with press and customers, he was kind enough to document his trip and experiences with JOYCE.com.
“I don’t want women to wear these clothes and look like “sandwich men” wearing a photograph or a piece of art. They have to become attractive garments, therefore the way we place the stones on the garment makes them jewels,but at the same time, they are also the lights of a bridge or a fisherman boat”
As soon as we met he took out some of the polaroids from his ethnic shoulder bag (he was wearing a navy blue jacket and a pair of chinos with an ethnic touch, which is his signature look). His snaps featured famous landmarks such as the tram, him enjoying dim sum and smiling on Pottinger Street surrounded by Santa Claus hats. He was clearly enjoying himself in Hong Kong and it showed.
From nature to cities
Dries was president of the fashion jury at the 2010 Hyères festival, which is where he discovered photographer James Reeve and his work on “Lightscapes,” which captures city lights on a pitch black canvas, transforming the colourful lights into abstract shapes and forms.
“In the autumn/winter 2011 collection, I used a patchwork of different fashion prints, and for spring/summer 2012 I wanted to use prints that are not created to be printed on fabric, hence the 18th century etchings, technical drawings of butterfly wings. In my memory, I thought of James Reeve’s beautiful photographs so I thought it’d be good to contact him and see if we could collaborate,” he says.
The result includes jet black silk and cotton separates printed with colourful lightscapes from Marseilles to Las Vegas. The positioning of each print is carefully thought-out, so dots of lights on a fish-tail ruffle skirt turn into flashing lights when the skirt moves, while tops are embellished with Swarovski crystals to mirror the original prints.
“I don’t want women to wear these clothes and look like “sandwich men” wearing a photograph or a piece of art. They have to become attractive garments, therefore the way we place the stones on the garment makes them jewels, but at the same time, they are also the lights of a bridge or a fisherman boat,” he says.
The 1950’s couture-like silhouette and details also work like magic with these prints, with grand elements such as ruffles on the shoulder and peplums on the waistbands of trousers adding a fresh and modern touch.
“I want to be inspired by the 1950’s, the elegant feeling, but we are not living in the 1950’s, so I incorporated the whimsical element such as the ruffles into the design,” he continues.
It’s interesting to note that Van Noten is not just a successful fashion designer, but also a very keen gardener. Therefore the city night-light prints are a pleasant surprise amongst his usual botanical prints. Does this mean he’s into the nightlife now?
“I love cities, I love the day life and I love the night life. For me, everything is about contrast and finding the right balance. If I would only live in the city, I get very nervous, but if I would only live in the countryside, I would get even more nervous,” he says.
After the interview, he mingled with guests at the exhibition cocktail, smiling, chatting and posing for photographs as a warm and welcoming host. Then he boarded a traditional Chinese sailboat which transported him to the dinner venue on the other side of the harbour. During the short boat ride, he admired the beautiful Hong Kong harbour on a clear evening, and took out his camera again.
“It’s time to take more pictures!” he said, capturing the beautiful lightscapes of Hong Kong.