Dior Homme supremo Kris Van Assche tells Lou Stoppard why it’s time to break all the rules
Kris Van Assche is looking to the future. He’s spent six years as artistic director at Dior Homme, as well as eight years at his own eponymous label. He’s in a good place right now, ready to take on the world.
It’s apt that for Dior Homme AW13, his most recent excursion, he explored destiny. To be more precise, he was fascinated by Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca (1997), a dystopian science-fiction romp through genetic discrimination and liberal eugenics. “The most fun part is really the last scene, where they go off to discover other planets,” 36-year-old Van Assche recalls. “They go to the space shuttle in a black suit, a white shirt and a black tie. You’d imagine going to Mars in a space suit but they probably wore Armani!”
It’s a classic Van Assche fashion moment – sartorial perfection no matter what the circumstances. He loves a bit of restriction. Give him a neat fastening, a perfectly considered piece of tailoring and a refined palette and he’s a happy man. This collection was no different, artfully vigorous and perfectly controlled. “I was totally focusing on the future and being confident about the future. That is kind of a provocative thing to say given that everybody feels so bad about what is going on. Everyone is so depressed. But fashion is there to make people believe that everything is going to be fine. It is supposed to be optimistic.”
Van Assche is certainly in a good mood professionally. He’s already planning his next collection and prepping Dior drawings for June. Feelings of assurance and enthusiasm are what drew him to Andrea Spotorno for this shoot, which features Dior’s SS13 collection. “It’s the first occasion I’ve got to work with Andrea, and it was the perfect choice because I wanted the shoot to be about a very dynamic young male. I wanted movement and bright colours. I wanted it to be very energetic – the photos have so much energy.”
Self-assured yet humble, Van Assche has pursued a quiet revolution. Like his clean, pared-down collections, he’s not one to scream and shout for attention. “I knew Dior was working when people stopped asking me about how I was treating the heritage,” he says with conviction. “When people stop asking the question then you know you’ve actually turned the page.”
It’s ironic then that it was actually the hectic pace of fashion that drew this calm, considered soul to a life of design. “The interesting idea for me is that it changes. You always have different longings. You always want different stuff. That’s what I like so much about fashion. You are never going to be completely satisfied. You’ll always find something you want to change – that’s the point.”
Having settled into his groove, Van Assche now credits the majority of his success on his formative years at the prestigious, and famously difficult, Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts. It was there that he honed his aesthetic and developed a talent for juggling work with life – he claims to function “like an accountant”, rising early and leaving the studio and all thoughts of fashion behind at the end of the day. “Somebody once told me that I shouldn’t try to do everything right, but that I should be doing the right thing,” he says. “It was a friend a very long time ago when I was at the Academy. I think it was very good advice and it’s very much related to fashion, because there are so many different qualities that you use for a brand to become a success and there’s no way that you can do everything. It’s about doing what you do best then finding the right people to do the rest. It’s very pretentious to think that you can do everything by yourself.”
Van Assche enjoys contrasts in his work and mimics this in his personality – just look at his signature fusion of tailoring with sportswear details. Part quiet pragmatism, part ruthless precision. He’s certainly not willing to play tricks or games. “We are into a new era now. This younger generation of designers is much more connected, and you see that in the design process. What we are living now has much less to do with this crazy extravaganza that you had five or ten years ago. Back then, there were nowhere near as many big, innovating menswear designers and now there are probably as many as in womenswear. You can’t fool clients any more. But then it was much easier to break rules ten years ago than it is today. Now all the rules have been broken. But I guess we should just forget about rules – that’s the future. Just get rid of every rule.”
Thanks to Lou Stoppard and Dazeddigital for the news.
All clothes and accessories Dior Homme SS13 / Photography Andrea Spotorno / Styling Mauricio Nardi / Hair Joseph Pujalte at L’ATELIER (68) / Make-up Katy Le Sant at Walter Schupfer Management / Nails Sophie A at L’Ongle Singulier / Models Janis Ancens at Elite Milan, Karl Morrall at L’homme de Nathalie Agency / Photographic assistant Philippe Bustarret at Bird Production / Retouching Vincent Rochat at Bird Production / Digital operator Florent Brunel at Pin Up Capture / Casting by Bird Production / Production by Bird Production / Shot at Pin Up Studio