When I go to Paris for my birthday, I am definitely going to have to stop at the divinely beautiful Dries Van Noten boutique at 7 Quai Malaquais. It feels more like a home than a shop and has been described as “an expression of the Belgian designer’s aesthetic that is a paradigm for our fashion times: an original, one-off store in which everything from a gleaming marble console to a stalwart 1970s desk appeals to the senses.”
“It was a dream opening in this location,” said Van Noten, referring to the spacious, high-ceilinged former bookstore and its view across the river to the Louvre.”
“I wanted it to be extremely luxurious with the atmosphere of a neighborhood,” he said. “It is something very personal. And I wanted to respect the place. Who am I to change it? I want to keep it and treasure it and pass it on to the next generation.”
Many of the eclectic objects that Van Noten and his partner Patrick Vangheluwe have garnered have been from flea markets and lend a warm and inviting atmosphere to the store. In addition, there are many other beautiful pieces such as, a sky-blue sofa from America, a baroque bridge table that once belonged to the aesthete Charles de Bestegui, a Chinese bird of paradise patterned rug, Ottoman velvet pillows from the 1920s, a decorative Italian screen, a Napoleon III boulle table and intriguing pieces from Belgium. They include a 1950s abstract painting by Marc Mendelson in the same pistachio green as the silk curtains surrounding a tiny glass conservatory-cum-boudoir.
I first fell in love with Dries Van Noten after I saw photos from his anniversary dinner and fashion show that was held for 500 guests in Paris in 2004. The setting was a factory on the outskirts of Paris, and the table measured 450 feet in length. It was set with linen and flatware for three courses. Above were chandeliers, casting a milky beam in the dark room, and behind the guests stood an army of waiters, many of whom, like the caterers, were brought from Antwerp, where Mr. van Noten lives. At the end of the evening he gave each guest a hardbound book covering his 50 collections that was produced at his own expense.
“He said before the show that he had always wanted to have everyone sit down at long table and have the models walk the linen between the main course and dessert. And what’s the point of reaching a milestone, as a self-made designer, if you can’t mark it with a banquet?” Amen!