Dries Van Noten celebrates dreamlike last show at Paris men’s fashion week

It was impossible not to watch the spring/summer 2025 menswear shows without thinking of the current spate of empty creative directorships and the knock-on effect that rejigging fashion leadership roles could cause. Givenchy is still up for grabs, Dries Van Noten has just stepped down from his own label, Lanvin has no named creative head.

The biggest prize, undoubtedly, is Chanel, which doesn’t have a menswear line — although it does offer shoes and many clothes in larger sizes, and its accessories are generally viewed as gender-free. But imagine how turnover would increase if it did cater to him as well as her — it sat at $19.7bn in 2023. That’s the case, for instance, at Celine, where designer Hedi Slimane introduced a menswear line that helped power the brand past €2bn in turnover. While LVMH does not disclose sales for individual brands, Celine’s revenues when Slimane joined in 2018 were slightly less than €1bn.

A model wearing a colourful-check suit with matching bag
On the Louis Vuitton catwalk, clothes and accessories came heavily-demarcated in Monogram and Damier checks . . . 
An Asian model wears a matching taupe-coloured suit and top. He is carrying a check-coloured bag
 . . . for a collection that wanted to reflect ‘the unifying spirit of the global mentality of Louis Vuitton’

Anyway, enough C-suite shop talk. What all that buzz seemed to do was whip designers into a frenzy to show us exactly what they were capable of. Pharrell Williams, the men’s creative director at Louis Vuitton, showed a collection in the garden of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization inspired by the “unifying spirit” of Louis Vuitton, and seemed to seek to unite nations through lust for product. This was fashion as merchandise, identity heavily demarcated in Monogram and Damier checks. The clothes otherwise were fairly classic, although cartoonishly squishy variations on Vuitton staples were fun, grabbing attention and encouraging customers to grab them. There was no huge overarching theme here — no reconsideration of beauty or shifting of aesthetic. It wasn’t a fashion show for the ages. The big statement here was, simply, “buy this”. And people will.

Models dressed in white stand on the stairs of a building
Rick Owens staged a spectacular show with 200 models primarily wearing white © Valerio Mezzanotti

But other designers did think big. Rick Owens, for instance, who staged a fashion show as biblical epic with 200 models clad, primarily, in white satin. It was unrivalled for scale, and the outfits were a greatest hits of Owens’ inimitable fashion statements, such as stocking-tight tops with jutting shoulders like chopped-up cereal boxes, crusted embroideries, monster glam-rock boots with stripper heels for all genders and the best leather jackets in the business. Owens is a rare entirely independent designer in a landscape of fashion conglomerates, and that freedom allows him to do exactly as he wishes. The impact of this spectacular show is something businesses 10 times his size would crave. I’d love to see what he’d do at Chanel.

Imagine if Chanel gave it to Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. One would assume she would never accept, but she is nothing if not unpredictable. And as her menswear line is anchored in ceaseless reinterpretations of suiting, there is some connection between her and Gabrielle Chanel. Comme des Garçons is always strong and singular, but this collection especially so, with ruffles exploding from tailoring and layers of suiting apparently X-rayed with transparent overlays.

A model in baggy blue trousers and a large, jacket covered with blue flowers
At Dior, artistic director Kim Jones explored the house archives . . . 
A model in a long pin-stripped coat with a large embroidered collar in a pale blue-green colour
. . . and collaborated with South African artist Hylton Nel

Kim Jones definitely has a vision to rival former Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld — he also now occupies the creative role at Fendi, where Lagerfeld designed for a staggering 54 years. In Paris, he shows menswear for Dior, this time collaborating with the South African artist Hylton Nel, an old friend. What is striking in Jones’ work for Dior is how he manages to marry his own fascinations with the heritage of the house, and translate it all to covetable collections that never clang with the hollow emptiness of marketing.

You were struck this time by the beauty of the colour palette of soft pastel pink, pale blue and greys yanked from Nel’s ceramic works and, Jones poetically said, the colour of the sunset above Cape Town, and the softness of the tailoring, which Jones described as “Deconstructing womenswear, and putting it back together as menswear.” But also by how that palette translated to little clutched saddlebags’ dangling chains, accessories that drive young male consumers wild with desire. He also managed to make clogs seem a viable masculine footwear statement for the first time since about 1892. Jones is lucky in that Dior has a rich and multi-faceted heritage to be reinterpreted — but Dior is lucky it has found a designer to do it so creatively, without losing commercial punch. 

A model with baggy tan-coloured trousers a and a check shirt
At Loewe, models walked with golden feathers veiling their faces, sporting baggy trousers . . .  © Daniele Oberrauch/Gorun
A model in a black jacket and trousers
. . . and skinnier silhouettes © Daniele Oberrauch/Gorun

Jonathan Anderson at Loewe has taken a different approach: during the past decade, he has shaken up this dusty and forgotten Spanish leather house, given it a new identity and new repertoire of accessory hits, fused its name with craft and high concept, and put it in an economic position to sponsor the latest blockbuster Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s called Sleeping Beauties, and maybe that’s what the 178-year old Loewe was.

This Loewe menswear show was a stonker of gilded youths in slimline tailoring, golden feathers veiling their faces, dragging brilliant bags about alongside wide-cut coats and cropped shirts and big, baggy ruched trousers. That both skinny and capacious were wholeheartedly asserted as aesthetic options within a single show is a sign of Anderson’s conviction as a designer. He staged this show around a bunch of instantly identifiable objects and artworks — a Charles Rennie Mackintosh chair, a Peter Hujar photograph, a copy of Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation cracked open and plonked on the floor. So I’ll take a leaf out of that literal book, and not interpret anything here too deeply. The takeaway was a broad sweep of male silhouettes and characters that felt relevant and real.

Reality is what inspired Dries Van Noten — at least, so he told me. But his final show — his 129th (how annoying) for his 150th collection (a more satisfying number to bow out on) was dreamlike, models wandering a catwalk loosely encrusted with silver leaf, sending fragments floating up around their faces and ours, like shards of light-made material. Van Noten’s career deserves proper celebration: he told me that people had been sending him letters — not emails but physical, many handwritten — telling him what his clothes meant to them, to their lives. What a measure of success.

A model wears a long coat covered in pink flowers and patterned-white trousers
For his final show at the helm of the brand, Dries Van Noten focused on tailoring . . .
A model in a long salmon-coloured coat with white trousers and a top
 . . . and his classic palette of soft colours

This collection was classic Dries, with slick tailoring and soft colour — although it was menswear, many looks were shown on female models, a throwback to Van Noten’s first collection, bought by the now-defunct Barneys New York for its womenswear department in 1986. There was no retrospective mood here, just pure clothes, made for people to wear. At the end, Van Noten took a bow to thunderous applause, from press, clients and a host of fellow designers, before a curtain dropped revealing a disco ball, to begin a celebratory all-night party. For an evening, it seemed everyone forgot the shifting landscape of fashion’s future and just lived in the moment. 

And then they realised a successor has to be found for Van Noten, and his business, too.

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