Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix: A Collaboration 2-Step

PARIS — The morning after unveiling their secret spring 2020 collaboration, the designers Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix explained how it happened and why. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Dries Van Noten When I was thinking about this collection, I was thinking, the world is so strange at the moment, with Trump, with Johnson, with Brazil burning, I could go one of two ways: very gray and grim, or the opposite, using fashion not as a dream but maybe a cure. So I was looking to the ’80s and ’90s couture, and Lacroix, and what he stood for: beauty, excess, freedom. And then I thought: Why not email him? I had met him once but didn’t know him.

Christian Lacroix I was not so sad about having left this world. Fashion was never my cup of tea, really. But there are a few designers I admire, and Dries is one; I like how he is sort of apart from it, and his ability to express maximalism with minimalism. And I buy his clothes; I have a museum of Dries knitwear. So when I got his email I was curious; I thought — how did he get my private email?

DVN We met in March, in secret, at the Puig offices on Champs-Élysées, right after the Giles Jaunes [Yellow Vests] protests. We talked about everything: fashion, the world. But also clothes, because in the end, that is what people need. They can’t dress in an idea. And then we started in April.

CL I did nothing, really. I got to Antwerp and he had all the fabrics on the board already: the ribbons, the jacquards, the zebra. I said, “Dries, you don’t need me.”

DVN But I did need you very much. It was: “Why don’t you make these pants a little bit wider, or put a few more ribbons, lose some of that pragmatism, embrace the beauty.” What was interesting to me was, we are from very different traditions: Christian was part of the bubble of couture, and I was part of a group that wanted to break that.

CL We met about seven times. It used to take me two and a half collections before I got to the final collection, but this, a lot of what we made in June was in the show. It was not a competition of egos. We are both Tauruses, and I think that helped. But at the end, the yes or no belonged to you.

DVN True. And I wanted to keep it. But I learned so much. I feel much more free now, after this experience.

CL It was wonderful, but this is my last day in fashion.