Words by:

For four decades, Dries Van Noten has been creating immersive sensory experiences on the runway. From deconstructed Bowie to a capella Destiny’s Child, look back on 9 of the designer’s most memorable soundtracks.

Reflecting on his 100th presentation in an interview with The New York Times in 2017, Dries Van Noten, who announced his retirement from his namesake brand this week, emphasised the enduring importance of putting on a show: “They are not the cherry on the cake, they are the cake.” More than a means to an end for selling clothes, a show was for celebrating craft, communicating a point of view, and like any host welcoming guests into his world, they were for entertaining.

With a flair for spectacle and the unexpected, the Belgian designer knew how to appeal to all our senses. Over the years guests have been served drinks, lounged in armchairs, felt the music move through them as models carried portable speakers and even eaten goulash, while dramatic sets and considered sound design have been a constant.

Menswear SS15

SS15’s minimalist soundtrack was originally written in the 80s by Belgian composers Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch for Rosas Danst Rosas – a contemporary dance piece known for its sharp, repetitive movements. Taking inspiration from Flashdance and famous dancers like Rudolf Nureyev, Dries Van Noten’s collection borrowed codes from the performing arts world too, with fluid fabrics, scooped necklines and balletic shoes.

Menswear SS23

On a rooftop in Paris, Belgian DJ and producer Charlotte de Witte provided the pounding finale for Dries Van Noten’s post-pandemic return.

Finding the chaos of the studio too busy to be able to fully enjoy music in, Dries would make time to discover new artists on his commute. He came across Belgium artist Max Colombie, aka Oscar and The Wolf, listening to local radio Studio Brussels and later asked him to create SS15’s ethereal soundtrack, Strange Entity.

Menswear AW11

A deconstructed version of Bowie’s Golden Years, remixed by Soulwax.

Womenswear SS17

Flowers suspended in giant ice boxes and a final walk out to Madonna’s Frozen.

A departure from Dries Van Noten’s more timeless soundtracks, SS10 was a time capsule for the turn of the decade (for better or worse) with Calvin Harris, Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas and Kid Cudi.

Menswear SS06

The mid-00s mens shows were all about dramatic stage design, live music, and the occasional full orchestra.

Womenswear AW15

Dedicating AW15 to glamourous dressing and fashion obsessives from the past, Dries mixed a capella versions of songs by of a long list of muses. Though the soundtrack hasn’t made it past copyright clearances online, there was Rihanna’s Rude Boy, Missy Elliott’s Get Ur Freak On, Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women, Blondie’s Rapture and Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, as well as Björk, Jane Birkin, Kylie Minogue and more.

Menswear AW23

Mixing spherical two-step to techno, eurodance and breakbeat, Belgian musicians Lander Gyselinck and Adriaan Van de Velde’s performed a live original composition. “We mainly took into account the venue, Dries’ collection, certain keywords we were given, our world of 90s music, rave and improvisation and we tried to make a nice blend of that,” Lander said.