Directed by: Reiner Holzemer | 90 minutes | documentary
Creative people and their way of working is what intrigues German documentary maker Reiner Holzemer. After numerous documentaries about photographers such as William Eggleston, Juergen Teller and August Sander, he focuses on fashion designer Dries van Noten for his latest portrait. Dries, a discreet man, was initially not so keen on making a documentary about his life and activities. It therefore took Holzemer three years to convince the designer of Flemish descent. In the end, with approximately 200 hours of film material, he managed to tastefully summarize the person behind the designs in the simple but colorful documentary ‘Dries’.
Dries is introduced by praise from several fashion connoisseurs, including fashion icon Iris Apfel, recognizable by her very present glasses. She expresses her appreciation for Dries’ daring simplicity. Dries is, as he himself says, a perfectionist and always looking for a challenge. Creativity is key. Once Dries has an idea for a new collection, his true designer nature comes to the fore and he carefully takes the time to elaborate on this in his head office in Antwerp. It soon becomes clear that Dries is trying to achieve almost the impossible out of time and is involved from A to Z in the overall process. From devising, selecting and combining the right materials and visiting all kinds of show-suitable locations to so-called model fittings and, of course, the fashion shows. In any case, there is no question of routine and that is confirmed by all the hectic that takes place behind the scenes during a fashion show.
Dries is honest and does not glorify things. All the hard work and the high level of stress that comes with it is sometimes hard for the designer. On the one hand, Dries needs more free time and rest. He finds relaxation amidst all the chaos on his estate, where aesthetics seem to play an equally important role. On the other hand, he knows that cutting down (let alone stopping) is not an option. To avoid nostalgia for his handmade fabrics from India, Dries chooses to push his limits.
But what perhaps makes the most impression is that the independent fashion designer, in contrast to the often extravagant designers, has remained so ordinary. Or simply, Dries lives with his partner Patrick and dog Harry in a house that you say to yourself and his beautiful garden is of botanical proportion. But in terms of personality (and clothing), the designer has not lost himself in a world where eccentrics seem to dominate. Modesty really suits the man. Instead of parading the entire catwalk at the end of a fashion show to receive the applause, Dries only takes a few steps forward and then in a standard, almost shy manner (a hand wave and bow) to the guests. thank you. The designer is all but concerned about his personal fame. It is really the detailed and decorative creations that draw all the attention.
The documentary is not very innovative in style. The daily affairs of Dries’ life are now and then alternated with short interviews, a cursory look back at his studies and time at the renowned “Antwerp Six” as well as images from previous fashion shows with comments from the designer himself. Nevertheless, the documentary maker has managed to find a good balance between the hectic life and the (scarce) moments of rest to keep the overall picture fascinating.
Holzemer would like to give viewers the impression that they have gotten to know the person a little after watching a documentary. In the case of ‘Dries’ we succeeded: although Dries and fashion are inextricably linked, the focus is not on the fashion industry but entirely on the fashion designer himself. Above all, it is the devotion, skill, time and energy that Dries puts into this creative form of art. Something that everyone can only admire, regardless of whether you are a fashionista or not at all.
According to Dries, fashion is just an empty word because it emphasizes the temporary aspect of a product. A timeless word is what he is looking for, because that is also what the designer (visibly) aspires to in his collections: clothing that is part of someone’s personality and can be worn at all times. Perhaps the word “fashionable” will suffice?