The fashion industry is all too rarely surprising. We all know, for example, that Dolce & Gabbana is more likely to make the cover of any glossy monthly worth mentioning than Comme des Garçons. This is because the Italian label is designed to ensure that stick-thin Hollywood cover stars look, well, stick-thin, and overtly glamorous to boot.

Comme des Garçons, meanwhile, is rather less people-pleasing – in fashionspeak, the label is described as "challenging" – and its designer clearly doesn't have the least interest in aiding and abetting any red-carpet stalwart's size-zero aspirations.

Then, of course, there's the fact that Dolce & Gabbana is a major advertiser. Without its revenue, many a title would cease to exist. Its high profile across the board is thereby easily explained.

It came as something of a surprise, with this in mind, that Kate Hudson was wearing Dries Van Noten on the cover of the January issue of the all-powerful American Vogue. Equally remarkable was the fact that Armani poster girl Cate Blanchett was also wearing a Van Noten dress at the Oscars. Armani, more even than Dolce & Gabbana, has an advertising spend that could make or break any publication on a whim.

Last week, meanwhile, it was announced that the Belgian designer had been awarded the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) International Award – he will pick up his gong at the annual gala in June. He is in good company, following in the footsteps of Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Lanvin's Alber Elbaz. He is nowhere near as obvious a choice as any of these, however. Van Noten is famously diffident, and certainly not in the habit of orchestrating attention-seeking pyrotechnics. Oh, and he's based not in Paris, Milan, London or New York but in Antwerp. Curiouser and curiouser.

Admittedly, the designer's summer collection is noteworthy. Given that this is a season devoted to all things floral, he was always going to have a head start. There's nothing quite like a Dries Van Noten floral print or embroidery, after all. More broadly, the move heralds a return to the value of beautiful clothing over and above head-to-toe fashion statements. The autumn/winter collections shown over the past two months were testimony to that fact.

So Van Noten's moment in the sun is good news for all those who like their clothes to be clothes – precious clothes, perhaps, and clothes that evoke the prevailing mood, but that never upstage their wearer, or see her stranded at a party alongside an army of fashion-followers in the same frock.

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