Kris Van Assche
In Conversation

The Belgian designer opens up about his childhood in Londerzeel and rebellion against popular fashion, and the ever-expanding universe of KRISVANASSCHE



Kris Van Assche
Photography by Gaëtan Bernard

You grew up in the small village of Londerzeel, did you have much interest in fashion as a youth?

I was born and raised in Londerzeel, a conservative environment with little space for creativity and personality. It was a very small village where nothing really exciting ever happened. It obviously influenced my personality as a human being. I spent most of my time alone in my room “being creative”. It wasn’t necessarily about Fashion back then, though it was already very present in my mind, but I could also just be drawing or making other things.

What was your first “awareness” of fashion? How did it change your outlook?

At the age of about 10-12 I seriously started questioning why anyone should decide for me what to wear. A little later, my grandmother started making my clothes which I had always seen her doing for herself. She made me those wide pleated pants that I loved, while everyone else was wearing jeans.

Has your upbringing translated at all into your work?

Probably. My parents are very much ‘down to earth’… They value hard work and believe in the importance of being independent.

You’ve cited that your desire to become a designer stems from wanting to have more control over what you wear, and your reaction to pressure to dress a certain way. What styles or products were popular at the time that you didn’t want to wear?

Back then, I refused to wear jeans. Everybody wore jeans back then, jeans were ‘cool’. Jeans were the code of a group I felt I didn’t belong to.

Was there something you were rebelling against?

There was little space for creativity and difference back then in Londerzeel. I did not fit in and in a way, I didn’t really want to.

How do these thoughts fit into your life now? Do you think that your designs emanate the same type of pressure onto others, in terms of dressing the “Kris Van Assche way”?

My clothes enforce one’s personality, they do not wish to pressure anything on anyone.

Is there always a personal element to your designs? Do you feel that same kind of pressure in terms of designing a certain way?

Yes, I would say my work is very personal. When I launched my label, I went about designing what I personally wanted to wear. Now it is no longer about what I want to wear, I now enjoy a more conceptual approach of creating a story that fits my universe, nurtured by experiences or things I learned.

What made you decide to start your own label?

Being an assistant for over 6 years became quite frustrating. I wanted to express my own personal vision on Fashion and therefore I needed to quit my job at Dior and start my own label.

Setting up my own label, KRISVANASSCHE, remains the most decisive moment of my life.

Your fashion and art publication, Londerzeel, launched recently in collaboration with Barbara Polla - how did the idea come about? What do you think separates Londerzeel from other fashion or art publications?

It all started when I guest-edited A Magazine, which I really enjoyed doing. I see LONDERZEEL as a continuation of that. A platform to show artists and things that inspire me. It is a way to show more of my world. It’s food for thought.

The work we show in LONDERZEEL reflects what might have inspired me and also allows readers a better understanding of my own work.

You stated that Londerzeel is an expansion of the KVA universe, and an extension to the fashion line itself – what does the KVA universe centre/revolve around?

I have always had this imaginary man in my head, a sort of ‘ideal man’. This man obviously also grows and evolves with me.
The KRISVANASSCHE man is always a mixture of different worlds. He likes tradition but loves the future more. He is never ‘only elegant’, he is too sporty for that. His look is never only about sportswear either, he likes a beautiful suit. He is tough, of course, but also romantic. I see him as being ‘ruggedly elegant’. I like there to be different layers, different worlds to discover.

You’ve also guest edited A Magazine; has publishing always been something of interest to you? Will you continue to explore it in the future?

I think of these projects as different ways of expressing the same message. But there is no ambiguity: I am a fashion designer and designing will always come first.

Kris Van Assche

Photography by Gaëtan Bernard

You’ve said that the KRISVANASSCHE man doesn’t exist concretely, and that you design with an imagined man in mind – he could be yourself, a friend, a colleague etc. Who was the imagined man for Spring 13, and how does he relate to the KRISVANASSCHE men of the past?

My very first show was all about combining the 3-piece suit with sneakers. That was my way of making a junction between adolescence and adulthood. I have always been interested in that passing, that journey from innocence towards reality; this moment when you need to really stick to your dreams. Nothing comes as natural to a young man as a white T-shirt. I liked the challenge of starting from this ‘real’ piece, this ultimate male basic, and pushing it into a new, creative direction. Often, my creative process starts from everyday reality.

Would you say that all your collections grow alongside you? Alongside your clientele?

Yes; it is a very personal process.

You’ve also said that the KRISVANASSCHE man and the Dior Homme man are, though separate entities, constantly conversing in your mind. What do they say to each other?

I feel creatively free at both and I enjoy the diversity. Dior Homme is very much about technique, know-how. It is about making the most out of the endless possibilities that are at hand. It is about using tradition to create something new. It is about creative luxury. It is me within a House with a heritage.
At KRISVANASSCHE, it is about an attitude, an ‘ideal man’ I have in my head. It is a very personal vision of the contemporary male.
Each season is a challenge to push both labels forward; two vocabularies within one/my vision of fashion – my vision of fashion.
I accept the fact that I only have one vision of fashion. Each season when I do the research, I need to decide which idea goes where. But more and more the selection happens in a natural way. I found a direction for both brands that can co-exist in a comfortable way.

And finally, what are your hopes for the future of KRISVANASSCHE?

More and better of the same.