Dries Van Noten: perfume is “another layer, another emotion”

Listening to Dries Van Noten talking about perfumes is positively meditative. From his garden near Antwerp, he tells me: “I love it at Christmas when the witch hazel is in bloom. It is kind of a big shrub but it has tiny little flowers and when there is a hint of sunshine it gives off the most amazing citrus smell. I love the scent you have when nothing else is blooming. When the azaleas and jasmine are in bloom, “it’s like walking through a great bath of perfume.”

Fans of Dries Van Noten’s romantic attire might know that the patterns of his neoclassical 1840s mansion are enchanting. With a lake, a zigzag yew hedge and a Victorian rose garden, they helped him demonstrate the vision of his new collection of 10 perfumes to the different “noses” that created each of them.

“I used to explain to perfumers: ‘Look how I combine [the roses]. Doesn’t really follow the rules. Try to forget everything you know about perfumes and put together ingredients that can be quite surprising,” he says on Zoom, the white brick of his Antwerp office in the background. This approach reflects his ready-to-wear designs, which often combine contrasting prints and textures: animal prints and quilted velvet, florals and checks, richly embossed silks. Perfume is “another layer, another emotion that you can wear,” he ventures.

Belgian designer Dries Van Noten in his garden near Antwerp © Kurt DeWitt

Scent and beauty also add another dimension to a brand: one that’s been on the cards for Dries Van Noten since Spanish group Puig acquired the label in 2018. (Van Noten remains creative director and president.) The The 63-year-old Belgian designer collaborated with renowned perfumer Frédéric Malle on an eponymous fragrance in 2013, but this collection of unisex fragrances (from €220), lipsticks and lip balms (€69) and d he accessories such as combs and mirrors is the brand’s first major foray into the beauty sphere.

Puig owns several other fashion houses with strong perfume businesses, including Carolina Herrera, Paco Rabanne and Jean Paul Gaultier. The launch comes amid a designer fragrance boom: U.S. fragrance sales rose 35% last year from pre-pandemic levels, outpacing skincare, with top-performing luxury home fragrances, according to NPD Market Research.

Ana Trias, Director of Brands for Dries Van Noten, Carolina Herrera and Nina Ricci, writes via email that the high-end fragrance market is “a very dynamic growth area globally, including in Asia. The pandemic has shown that consumers are ready to trade in more premium fragrances. »

Dries Van Noten Soie Malaquais eau de parfum

Dries Van Noten Silk Malaquais Eau de Parfum, €240, eu.driesvannoten.com © Courtesy of Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten Rock the Myrrh Eau de Parfum

Dries Van Noten Rock the Myrrh Eau de Parfum, €240, eu.driesvannoten.com © Courtesy of Dries Van Noten

The new Eau de Parfums smell rich, intense and maximalist. Soie Malaquais, one of the stars, is a silky fragrance with almost overripe notes of blackcurrant and bergamot in a refillable bottle combining Delft porcelain and burgundy glass. It’s delicious but maybe not easy to wear if you’re used to ultra fresh and light. The lipsticks come in original refillable bullets with a mix of snake and flower print, and the vibrant colors last. Whether they offer anything vastly different is debatable, but they certainly feel authentically Dries.

Initially, noses were unconvinced by two rose scents, to which Van Noten says he replied, “’I don’t care. They are going to talk to two very different types of people. One is combined with vetiver and the other with pepper, which makes the roses completely different. He explained to perfumers that “most roses in perfumes are feminine, sweet, dewy, soapy, maybe even powdery and a bit grandma, but the rose can be a symbol of revolution. It can hurt, it has thorns – think of a revolutionary rose instead.

Indeed, Rose Carnivora, described by its creator, Daphné Bugey, as “unfiltered nature, with all its little flaws”, has a certain earthy and smoky mystery thanks to vetiver. Think of a tulle skirt worn with Dr Marten boots. Raving Rose is sweeter and more “pink”, but the black pepper gives it a modern, spicy twist.

Dries Van Noten Coral Ceramic Lipstick

Dries Van Noten Coral Ceramic Lipstick, €69, eu.driesvannoten.com © Courtesy of Dries Van Noten

Van Noten opted not to try the fragrances with test audiences to see how they reacted to the products because “a lot of times they’re made a little easier, which I didn’t want to do. The more character they have, the better.

At the label’s Fall/Winter 2022 presentation in a wood-panelled mansion in Paris in early March, Van Noten shared with me his excitement behind the scenes, immersed in the imaginary world of makeup artists. “Every show you have to talk about makeup, maybe the eyes are a little dark or you need to put a little shine, a little more color, a little less color. [The make-up range] didn’t come out of nowhere.

The models are wearing Dries Van Noten Camouflage Red.  .  .

The models are wearing Dries Van Noten Camouflage Red. . .

.  .  .  and custom Nude lipstick shades

. . . and custom Nude lipstick shades © Iringo Demeter

Of the 30 shades of lipstick in three finishes – satin, matte, sheer – Van Noten says they “found formulas that have a lot more pigment, so you have very intense color, which is my thing, and it’s also holding up really well.” Another key feature for Dries was that the products had to be environmentally friendly; perfume bottles and lipstick cases are all refillable and made with recyclable materials.

More makeup products are in the works, but he started with lipstick in anticipation of “when we can drop the masks,” and because it’s transformative. “A woman can turn her back, put on lipstick, and when she turns around, it’s another woman standing there. It’s magic.

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