For our latest Designer Dogs interview, Minnie Muse sat down - via Zoom - with Harry Van Noten, the hopelessly stylish Airedale Terrier belonging to Belgian fashion designer, Dries Van Noten. We were eager to hear about Harry’s fanciful daily routine while at home on his family’s flower-filled property in Lier, whether he shares his father’s penchant for gardening and antique textiles, and how he recently assisted Dries in spearheading a coalition of designers and retailers from around the world, calling on the fashion industry for a fundamental reassessment of its operations. Read highlights from our latest designer dogs interview below...
Owner: Dries Van Noten
Age: 11 (passed away in 2019)
Breed: Airedale Terrier
Instagram Handle: N/A
Instagram Followers: N/A
Minnie Muse: Hi Harry! It’s a pleasure to meet you virtually – we are excited to chat today. How have you been holding up?
Harry Van Noten: Hallo [Hello in Dutch] Minnie Muse, thank you for reaching out. The feeling is mutual – I’ve been home now for four months – and counting! It’s incredibly refreshing to have a conversation with a new friend!
MM: I am so happy to inject some newness in the monotony of quarantine. Where have you and your family been sheltering the past few months?
HVN: We have been spending time at home in Lier, Belgium, just outside the city of Antwerp. Vader [Father in Dutch] purchased the property a few years back after falling in love with its sprawling grounds and paradise-like gardens; which happen incredibly beautiful all year round, but in the spring and summertime, especially.
MM: Sounds like nothing short of a quarantine dream. Your vader is known to be quite the horticulturist. Do you share his penchant for flowers and love of gardening?
HVN: I most certainly do. Just after we moved in I helped my god-vader, landscape architect Erik Dhont, transform the grounds into a playful garden of Eden, filled with peonies, geraniums, poppies, and zigzag hedges. When the flowers are in full bloom, the vivid colors and enchanted planting reminds me of a cross between The Secret Garden and my favorite film, Alice in Wonderland.
MM: Alice in Wonderland is a great choice! You must also love the 2017 documentary ‘Dries,’ by director Reiner Holzemer, which explores your vader’s intense passion and distinctive talent.
HVN: Yes, I have seen it, but it feels a bit too close to home… I prefer to live in a world of fantasy and escapism.
MM: That’s fair. I assume I would feel the same way if a documentary was made about my life, but it’s safe to say that I will probably never know… Being an architecture junkie myself, can you tell us a bit about your home on the property?
HVN: The main residence is a neoclassical-style structure built in 1840, which vader deemed the perfect place to house his prized collection of antiques and patterned textiles. He enlisted interior designer Gert Voorjans – with whom he often collaborates on Dries Van Noten stores – to help achieve the perfect spirit of eclectic elegance that he always strives for.
MM: You can never go wrong with eclectic elegance. Do you and your vader share the same taste in design?
HVN: I respect his design sensibility, of course, but my personal tastes veers more towards retro futurism. Vader built me a dog house on the property with a façade that mimics the neoclassical aesthetic of his residence, but the interior is a replica of Verner Panton’s Phantasy Landscape from 1970, reimagined in shades of green and yellow. The fluidity of architecture and furniture interacting in one vibrant yet relaxing setting creates a dream like sanctuary for me to retreat to in the evenings.
MM: So I take it you’re not an antique addict?
HVN: Not quite, but I do enjoy vader’s Sunday pilgrimages to flee markets in Brussels and Paris, as he often returns with gifts for me. I have developed quite a collection of vintage athletic balls, after accumulating dozens over the years… My two favorites are an early Wimbledon tennis ball a deflated volleyball that he found for me in Paris – which I now use as a neck pillow when I take afternoon naps in the main house.
MM: Where is your favorite area to relax? Are you allowed on the furniture?
HVN: Only on special occasions will vader invite me onto the sofa, but if I’m ever too tired to make it back to my personal sanctuary in the evening, there are several large dog beds made from repurposed Mantero silk brocade scattered around the house for me to curl up on, and a handful more at his office. I love cozy places to sleep.
MM: Beauty sleep is incredibly important! You mentioned your vader’s office, did you accompany him to work pre-quarantine?
HVN: Yes, as a child I would go to the studio with him every day, but the frequency of my visits has decreased significantly as I’ve gotten older. I can’t handle the fast-paced environment like I used to, particularly during collection seasons.
MM: The stress and pressure must be unimaginable. Speaking of, a coalition of designers and retailers, led by your vader, recently released an open letter to the fashion industry calling for a fundamental reassessment of its operations. Did you see this all take shape? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter…
HVN: I was a fly on the wall for a number of vader’s zoom calls during the first two months of quarantine with industry professionals from around the world. They addressed two primary issues: the timing of collection deliveries and discounts. Since launching his namesake label in 1986, vader has always been a leader, advocating not only for himself and his peers, but on behalf of the planet. Promoting less unnecessary fabric, product, and inventory waste, speaking out against the industry’s impossible pace, and urging the fashion community to become more responsible in all aspects of the production cycle. I am very proud of him and all of his efforts to enact change.
MM: I think, now more the ever, the industry is ready for a shakeup. The world finally realizes they can’t continue forth without change, its inevitable. In retrospect this will all be for the better.
HVN: I couldn’t agree more.
MM: And tell me, between restructuring the fashion industry and advocating for global climate change, have you found time to relax?
HVN: Yes, we have had plenty of downtime during quarantine. Even before the world went into lockdown, vader has always maintained a balance between his work and private life. Our most treasured moments are usually during meal time as a family.
MM: What does your ideal meal consist of?
HVN: You can never go wrong with a simple salad made from the freshest ingredients. We often journey down to the vegetable garden before dinner, seeking out the perfect heirloom tomatoes or uprooting some particularly bulbous fennel to harvest and eat within the hour.
MM: Heavenly. Does there happen to be any summertime aperitif consumed pre-meal?
HVN: We are not big drinkers, instead, vader makes a lemonade infused with rose petals that is the preferred beverage of the household. In fact, I am going to pour myself a glass right now.
MM: That sounds like a superb idea. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us this afternoon. Enjoy your beverage and continue saving the world!
HVN: Thank you. We will ;)