Dries meant this to be a celebration, hence the immense disco ball that shared the stage with him during his last minute ever on a runway, but who hasn't cried at a party? We all knew the day was getting closer and closer with the passing of days. When fashion month started after the somehow calm months that happen in between seasons, my first thought was not the usual “damn, here we go again," it was “damn, this is Dries last." But the knowledge of something happening doesn't imply any sort of preparation or acceptance of the fact that one of the few remaining men who played the fashion game, as it was intended to be, was moving his last pieces and getting ready to leave the table that thousands of enthusiasts and lovers have stared at for decades without getting bored, tired, or used to it. The number chosen to be the last of him working under his own name was 129. 129 shows that we could only wish would’ve been 130, not only for aesthetic reasons but because we could always do with one more of him. But as with everything related to his brand (up until this moment), it was his decision, and we won't discuss it.
From 1986 to 2024, a lot of life has been lived by everyone, and the young man who, at 28, fresh out of the Royal Academy of Antwerp, presented his first collection is now presenting his last as a 66-year-old. During all those years, lots of things can happen, change, and transform, even more in fashion, where the usual is to live ahead of time, faster than everyone, and more intensely as well. But for Dries Van Noten, there has always been a particular calmness and consistency around him from the start that has been projected not only on the ever-high quality of every piece he has put out to the world but also on the way he presents himself and the way he lives his life. Coming from someone who spends his days in a house straight out of a fairytale with a garden we can only dream of having in our next life, it makes sense how the ways and rhythms of nature are passed onto his craft.
During all these decades, the industry has been lucky enough to get fed by what feels like a sensible but at the same time academic approach to fashion, where everything makes sense to the eye and to the brain: the never-ending unique prints and patterns, the masterful colour combinations, and the type of garments that are the perfect physical representation of high fashion meant to be worn, meant to inhabit our closets and go side by side with their owner, with taste and poise but with an undeniable sense of style and uniqueness, recognisable from miles away. On June 22, we knew our last dinner would be served, and what we got was the perfect Dries Van Noten menu with all the flavours, spices, and elements that have made us loyal to him for all these years. 
To start, the setting of the show was, of course, Paris Fashion Week, but the location was outside all of this, in La Courneuve, in a wide sort of industrial space with big screens projecting some of Dries most memorable moments, with friends and family all congregated to share these last moments together far away from the chaos of Paris and inside their own bubble. The guest list looked like every fashion enthusiast's dream and paradise. Among the 1036 invitees, names like Haider Ackermann, Pierpaolo Piccioli, and Thom Browne appear; all had words of love for Dries, who received each one of them prior to the start of the show with a glass of his favourite champagne and the warm smile he always sports. Inside this guest list, a very important space was there for his people, his fellow Belgians, from the new generations like Glenn Martens to his lifelong Academy friends like Ann Demeulemeester or Walter Van Beirendonck. People say that Martin Margiela was also there, but I won't get into that or I won't be able to stop.
What’s interesting and remarkable about the assistants is the presence of the people who have shaped who Dries is today, not only as a person but also as a brand. From his pattern makers, his embroiders, his very own team, and his clients, everyone who was meant to be there was there. There was no need to call the hottest celebrity to a moment like this; it was like a family reunion where the only thing that matters is to feel at home surrounded by the ones you love, not who takes the best picture or has the best look. It's undeniably an ambiance and mindset that's missing in the current fashion world, one that could benefit and encourage more the creator than getting empty reviews after or claps coming from someone who doesn't know your last name. On this, Dries has always had good luck; whoever likes him, loves him, and once you know him, you become loyal. 
The show starts after the curtains unveil what the runway looks like: a long catwalk made of pieces of foil that will move with the wind produced when models walk over it. The collection was entirely menswear, even the multiple looks worn by female models; the side of the lapels that overlaps when closing the blazers and suits gives the hint that they are still technically for men, although like with every piece of Dries, anyone can make great use of it. The looks were a perfect showcase of everything Dries knows how to do. It was not a “best of” or a retrospective; it was just another great collection that happens to be the last. With a range that starts on the darker side, turns colourful by the middle, and finishes with a bright tone, the craft is at its best, the printing techniques and layerings are as complex as always, and the tailoring is as comfortably perfect as it can get. The transparency and textures, the way the garments sit on the body, and the palette are objectively immaculate.
After the show, Dries mentioned the idea of this being a step forward, a collection that looks to the future. As much as we don't like to be pessimistic, we will allow ourselves a little bit of doubt at this vulnerable moment. Dries is one of a kind, and as much as the future is ahead of us, the past is unmatchable. The legacy he left during all these years has shaped generations, and his contribution to fashion can’t be measured. It is good for him that he had the ability to decide when and how he wanted to put down the pencil; it is an honourable end of an honourable career of an honourable man, but we can't help but feel empty and, must be said, sad. Seeing how only a handful of the OGs are still in business is scary, and while there are still great things happening outside, in my humble opinion, nothing will top the past. Dries himself has said that ever since his announcement, there have been days when he thinks he couldn't have made a better choice, while in others he regrets it, wondering if it was too soon. Seeing how the man himself is hesitant about it makes us feel less bad about overthinking. 
I saw Dries less than a month ago in Antwerp, at the Royal Academy, while we were both checking the masters graduate collection. It was one of those moments when you have no idea what could possibly be said that even matches how important someone has been for you, so it's better to say nothing at the risk of sounding insane. After all, in this instance, I have to be a very professional member of the international press group of invitees, not the young girl who studied fashion design and has looked up to him for years and years, but I won't lie and say that I didn't try to telepathically influence him to make him reconsider his departure. But what he meant for me as a young and now adult fashion enthusiast, he has meant to millions of people that have been inspired by the Dries Van Noten vision of the world, and, though the space he leaves won't ever be filled, there are many hands and brains at work right now that, thanks to his lessons, will try to make his already big legacy expand even more and last even longer.