Creative director of Dior Homme, Kris Van Assche talks to Dazed about his stripped back S/S11 collection and his first filmic collaboration with Willy Vanderperre
For S/S11, Kris Van Assche continues to remake the Dior Homme man in his own image- a softer, more romantic take on menswear. The beautifully contemplative Korean movie, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring was the starting point for the collection, specifically the central message of the movie – “that less is more.” So he stripped the suit down to its basic components and colours were pared back to a strict palette of black, white and putty. A poetic wanderlust is never far from Van Assche’s mind, with his travels through India and Peru inspiring the dramatic, swirling cloaks and jackets that morphed into shawls. A world away from Slimane’s razor sharp aesthetic, the sense of ease and movement balanced with extreme rigor in the S/S11 collection betrays Van Assche’s growing confidence in his place at Dior Homme. Dazed spoke to Van Assche about the collection and his first foray into the digital realm – a film with photographer Willy Vanderperre starring Danish model, Victor Nylander.
Dazed Digital: The collection was titled Lessness and you talked about searching for a sense of harmony and balance – how did that translate to the collection?
Kris Van Assche: The collection was inspired by the Korean movie ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring’ which is all about a Buddhist teacher explaining that “less is more”. I felt that for Dior Homme, the time had come to redefine a modern vision on luxury, based on beautiful fabrics and finishings, beautiful and comfortable volumes. I banned all forms of distraction and tried to keep only the essential. The work with the ateliers was most important for this collection where all clothes were fluid and often made out of a single layer of fabric. Some of the pieces like jackets used the raw edges of the fabric which made for a rough minimal effect, but requested rethinking the structure of the pieces as a whole.
DD: A wanderlust infects your work – with influences from North Africa and South America – what inspires you about those cultures and the men who come from there?
Kris Van Assche: It is true I get much of my inspiration from travelling, though I feel it doesn’t really show in my clothes – and that is the way it should be. But it is important to get away from Paris from time to time, and to keep an open eye towards the world. I used to talk a lot about Buenos Aires and I even went there for castings. It was the time where I had difficulties finding models in agencies since I didn’t relate at all to this form of “heroin chic” that was going on. On my search for this “modern beauty” I ended up in Buenos Aires where men wear their shoulders back and their chin up. That just seemed to correspond better to the Dior clothes. Later, I was in Moscow, Riga, Kiev and even Rajasthan always with this search for modern faces and attitudes. Though I must add there is a return to more “beautiful” guys in the agencies which makes castings more easy.
The fluidity in the last collections for both Dior Homme and my own label krisvanassche was inspired by what I saw men wearing in India and Peru but also on a single remark from a close friend telling me my jackets were too stiff. In the end it is important to loose all literal inspirations and to obtain a modern vision for a modern man.
DD: You paired suits with sandals and softened the suit with raw edges – are you trying to redefine the formality of the suit? Were the capes to inject some romance into the collection?
Kris Van Assche: It was about adding fluidity in the suit and showing a suit doesn’t need to be stiff in order to be elegant. The capes were the idea of “less is more” pushed to the extreme: half the jacket was made and the other half was literally just the fabric floating. Also, it was a way of showing the work in progress at Dior Homme: since all pieces are studied and made in the ateliers, I get a lot of my inspiration from that process. often, I intervene within a piece in the middle of being made and the creative process continues… those capes (which weren’t really capes but “half-jackets”) looked like I literally pulled them from under the machine before they were finished.
DD: Is your trademark softer silhouette a uniform for downtrodden times?
Kris Van Assche: It is maybe an unconscious reaction to hard times and a longing for comfort?
DD: What is your definition of elegance?
Kris Van Assche: There is no definition and that is exactly the reason why it is hard to be elegant. it defers from person to person, it is about attitude rather than about what you wear. I guess a first rule would be not to hide one’s personality behind an outfit. You can’t buy elegance.
DD: Are you getting more confident in making Dior Homme as personal as KRISVANASSCHE?
Kris Van Assche: Yes, and I have noticed reactions are much better since I started enjoying what I do at Dior Homme.
DD: What was the thinking behind your collaboration with Willy Vanderperre on ‘The Time I had Some Time Alone’?
Kris Van Assche: I had wanted to work with Willy Vanderperre for a very long time. I truly admire his aesthetic and found it to be mostly appropriate to capture the message of my collection for Dior Homme. The idea behind the collection “lessness” was a return to true values, true luxury, “no nonsense”, a form of concentrating on what is really essential. That is the reason why I chose to show the collection in a very rough environment, to be able to concentrate only on the clothes without distraction. I knew I could trust Willy to work around the idea of a very rough environment, minimal looking clothes shot on this incredible boy Victor, and end up with a result that looks extremely luxurious. It is about a modern photographer shooting a modern vision on luxury.