Right now kids all over North America are dreaming about becoming fashion designers but thinking that it wont be possible for them since they dont live in the fashion haven, Paris. Although it is true that some designers, like Amercian Rick Owens, prefer to decamp to Paris, others, notably Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester have resisted the siren call of Paris without hurting their credibility or sales.
By so doing, Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester may be singlehandedly be preserving the garment trade in their native Belgium.
Dries Van Noten
Designer Dries Van Noten has famously resisted moving to a fashion centre such as Paris. He reportedly cherishes the anonymous lifestyle that remaining in his native Belgium affords him.
Besides, life at home in Belgium offers Dries Van Noten and his partner Patrick Vangheluwe other perks. Their six-acre home on the outskirts of Antwerp lets the designer indulge in his other love: gardening.
Bringing a little bit of France home to Belgium
Ann Demeulemeester had one of the most famous first seasons in fashion when she and fellow students from Antwerps Royal Academy, including Dries Van Noten, set up a little stand outside during Londons 1987 Fashion Week. Within minutes, Barneys had discovered them and placed an order.
Ann Demeulemeester seemed poised to make it big, but she was already determined to stay in Belgium.
In an interview with Doingbird magazine, Ann Demeulemeester tells journalist Sarah Mower, By the nineties I was getting all kinds of offers, and I always said no. I was not interested in working in Italy or anything else. I guess I come from a normal Flemish family, from a Catholic education, with all the normal rules in life.
In fact, Ann Demeulemeester and partner Patrick (who have been together since they were sixteen), had already bought the home in which they intended to raise their family (the couple has one son). She had fallen in love with it at first sight. Only afterwards did she realize that it was the only building in Belgium to have been designed by Paris-based architect Le Corbusier.
In the same interview with Doingbird magazine, Ann Demeulemeester talks about the difficulties of manufacturing high-quality clothes on a largish scale in Belgium. She explains that the only remaining manufacturing facilities are there to service her and former classmate, Dries Van Noten: Now they exist because of me and Dries.
By making a different choice from Rick Owens, these two Belgian designers are sending a message to aspiring fashion designers around the world that fashion can be cultivated anywhere in the world, not just in the fashion capital of Paris.