We love Dries van Noten for his gorgeous prints and surprising designs, but according to a profile in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the Belgian designer almost went under in 1991 thanks to some very ill-timed inspiration.
Two years later, close call No. 2 came: the Persian Gulf War. Most fashion companies lost a great deal sales-wise because American retailers slashed their spring/summer 1991 orders as the country went to war in January. Van Noten experienced that and more: “That season,” he says, “I made the collection inspired by Iraq and Iran”—having conceived and designed it before Iraq invaded Kuwait. As it happens, he says, “we have a system where jacket names begin with a B for blazer, and skirts are with an S for skirt, so that season the blazers were called Baghdad, the skirts were called Saddam, and so on. All the shipments to New York were blocked in customs because the papers were filled with names of cities of Iraq and Saddam.”
“That,” he says quietly, “nearly caused us bankruptcy.”