In an unexpected 2020 move, Dries Van Noten has opened its first flagship in the United States, specifically in Los Angeles.
Taking over the shuttered Opening Ceremony on La Cienega Boulevard, the 16 room, 8,500-square concept is the Belgian designer’s largest retail store in the world, roughly four times the size of his original Antwerp flagship. Dubbed a “creative lab,” the concept combines traditional retail with exhibit works by a diverse group of L.A. based and international artists, designers and craftspeople.
“I tried to do something you could only do in L.A.,” Van Noten told the Los Angeles Times. “We wanted it to feel how linked everything is there. For me, that’s why a store like this can only happen in L.A.”
The site comprises two houses separated by a vast parking lot. It comprises ‘The Big House’ on two floors, the ground floor for the women’s collections with those for men upstairs. ‘The Little House’ is one open plan space. Verdant foliage outside the houses and cut flowers within express the botanical legacy of Dries Van Noten. This is heightened by the work of Japanese artist Azuma Makoto, with whom Dries has previously collaborated on scenography for a Paris fashion show and exhibition. Makoto’s translucent photographs of flowers on windowpanes refract vivid colored light into the space.
Visitors are welcomed into a world of bright and stark contrasts with a playful juxtaposition of architecture, furniture, color and perspectives. Walls are optic white, and floors grey concrete. In places structural elements are heightened by the vivid yellow that is synonymous with all Dries Van Noten locations and expressed throughout this space in a wide variety of materials, from textiles and carpets to enamel.
The Big House will be home to the women’s and men’s collections. A Grand Steinway piano and a large yellow sofa mark the white of the entrance. Pianists, from young members of the music academy to more seasoned musicians and even clients, will be invited to perform. A dramatic corridor leads from the entrance and provides a distant glimpse of an ornate chandelier in Murano glass.
Most furniture for the space has been repurposed. Elements created by the French furniture designer, Johan Viladrich, are also featured throughout the houses. His process for architectural designs generate ‘zero waste.’ Viladrich uses pre-existing, often industrial materials, and grafts them onto existing furniture to extend functionality and create a new purpose
A diverse group of local and international L.A. based artists were invited to paint directly on walls throughout the rooms dedicated to the collections for Women and Men. Both women’s and men’s floors feature an archive room presenting a selection of garments and accessories from past collections for purchase. In time, post COVID-19, this service will extend to allow customers to re-sell their Dries Van Noten pieces that will be restored and refreshed. The Big and Little Houses are each to be a place to exhibit works by artists, designers and craftspeople whose work has impressed Dries Van Noten. Exhibitions within The Big House will reflect the inspirations of the current collections for either Women or Men. Exhibits at The Little House will follow an independently curated and constantly evolving program. Upcoming exhibitions have been planned with artists from varying disciplines and media ranging from ceramics, textiles (carpets), photography, furniture and music.
The extraordinary work of Ann Demeulemeester – Serax, fine, dramatic tableware and lighting in porcelain, glass and metal is the inaugural exhibit at The Little House. The event room at The Big House highlights jewelry created by London based designer Alan Crocetti installed with the arresting work of artist Richard Stipl.
Plans are clear too for the parking lot. It is hoped, in time, to host exhibition openings, gatherings and food tasting catered by pioneering chefs and restaurants. Dries Van Noten Los Angeles will also present a selection of books (rare, used and new) that have played a role in inspiring past collections. Monthly personalities are invited to curate a selection of vintage and current vinyls, available for purchase or play in the ‘Sound & Vision’ area on our Men’s floor. The first selection is curated by world renowned Belgian duo music producers “2 many DJs.” In time and again, post COVID, the shop will also have an open kitchen on the upper floor where one can enjoy drinks and small bites.
The ambition of a brick and motor retail concept in the middle of a global pandemic is a surprising one.
“We thought, ‘Well, it’s not the most obvious time. It’s not the most easy time,’” Van Noten told the paper. “But on the other hand, we thought, ‘Why not now?’”
According to WWD, Van Noten recruited sales staff from Opening Ceremony and from L.A.’s recently closed Barneys New York, all whom recently lost their jobs.
Scroll through the gallery above to see more photos of the space.