From The Issue: Happy Birthday Kris Van Assche
In celebration of Kris Van Assche’s birthday today we’re taking a look back at his 10 People To Meet story in Issue 46 of 10 Men, REBEL HEART:
10 People To Meet
Gang, squad, army – whatever you want to call them, cliques are in fashion like never before. But where some designers fill their VIP booths in the club with top models and hot bodyguards, others choose a far more personal approach. When, on his 10th anniversary as artistic director at Dior Homme this year, the elusive Kris Van Assche started using the uncharacteristic hashtag #kvasquad on his Instagram, he revealed an eclectic group of ambassadors very different from the Taylor Swift-y girl squads adopted by fashion in recent years.
Kris Van Assche’s band of poster boys is made up of personal friends, collaborators and the icons he grew up admiring, next to young talents he believes in today. They are art curators, music authorities, production experts, creative consultants, actors and models. Great faces, of course – this is Dior Homme! – but a walking and talking glimpse into the personal world of Van Assche: his past growing up in provincial Belgium and his Parisian present as one of the most powerful menswear designers in the world. For this designer, having people around him isn’t an ego boost or a shield from the public. Rather, as he explains, his ambassadors enable him to enjoy his work in a different way and connect with the industry better than he did before.
After his show last summer, you could find him sipping wine at Caviar Kaspia, nestled in a typical Parisian squeeze between a far-from-typical crowd: there were Larry Clark and A$AP Rocky, his Dior Homme campaign boys at the time, there was Robert Pattinson fresh off the house’s perfume banners, and the legendary stylist Rushka Bergman. If you’d asked a teenage Van Assche if that scenario would ever unfold, he’d have shrugged, or at best sounded you out with some of his new wave music.
As his 10th anniversary as artistic director began approaching, Van Assche decided to have some more fun at Dior Homme. He’d proven he could carry the house commercially, his tailoring and streetwear hybrids were fast gaining a younger audience and Van Assche himself had passed 40. He’d never been known as one for a glitzy dinner affair. The fashion circus never appealed to his polite and formal Belgian demeanour. “No,” he admits over coffee in Dior Homme’s courtyard in Rue de Marignan. “But ever since I’ve been able to choose people who I actually like, it’s different. I mean, having dinner with Rami Malek is super- interesting, having dinner with Boy George is super-interesting,” he says, referring to his current campaign stars. “When I told my mum I was meeting Boy George for a campaign, she was like, ‘What?’ So it’s nice moments – it’s not just the ranking of the best, most-followed stars in the world or whatever. It’s not about that.”
What he means is he chose the ambassadors who have changed his approach to the social side of fashion, not by popular demand, but because they’re people he either genuinely admires or considers personal friends. “When we shot Larry Clark… ” he pauses. “Larry Clark is the ultimate youth-culture reference, and it was basically a dream to meet him.” Next to the people Van Assche approaches for his campaigns, the designer has made a point of paying tribute to the team he works with, from his Dior Homme stylist, Mauricio Nardi, to his soundtrack composer, Frédéric Sanchez, and his show producer, Etienne Russo. Speak to them and you’ll get a unique scope of this reserved designer’s personality. “Both in his friendships and working relationships, Kris is ‘demanding’ and loyal,” Nardi says. “He does everything 100% full-on and he is very sincere, and that makes it easy for me to work with him.” Dylan Roques, Van Assche’s fit model at Dior Homme, agrees: “He has a charismatic personality. He is a very kind and generous person. At work, he is very calm. He is creative and a perfectionist – every detail counts in his work.”
They’ll give you an image of a sensitive boy from Londerzeel, Belgium, who didn’t always have an easy time fitting in and grew up wanting to do good in life. Above all, Van Assche cares about his craft: the master tailoring he’ll wax lyrical about or the streetwear he always strives to unify it with. “He can bring poetry and sensitivity to the most classic and formal things,” says Sanchez. “His approach is not rigid, and that’s why I think he is a genuine couturier.” But around the time Van Assche began assembling his band of Dior Homme ambassadors, it was as if he had started looking back at his adolescent years, feeding his unfulfilled childhood desires into his work. From the raves he never went to, to the icons he never dressed like, in recent seasons he’s been living his teenage dreams – supported by the people who filled them and those he feels represent them today, as well as a tight-knit gang of true friends who know the real Kris Van Assche. “He’s a passionate aesthete – attentive, reactive, discreet, accurate and confident,” says his friend Thomas Fritsch, an antiques dealer, who also fuels the designer’s passion for mid-century ceramics.
“Kris is super-chill and an extremely kind man. I didn’t expect that from someone as meticulous and creative as he is,” recalls actor Malek, who met the designer when he was approached for the Dior Homme campaign this season. Like A$AP Rocky, their collaboration turned into a friendship, something Nardi says often has a creative rooting to it as well. “I personally don’t really like the overload of VIPs, who I often feel are worlds apart from the story behind a show. At Dior Homme, the VIPs who end up doing the campaigns were almost always on the mood board first and therefore make total sense.”
In a fashion world where designers surround themselves with celebrities like never before, Van Assche’s approach offers a more grounded, less cynical take on that clique mentality. “We are surrounded by images that can make creation quite fragile,” Sanchez says. “So more than having ‘brand ambassadors’, perhaps it’s just that designers like to create their own language and have it passed on by their creative family and people they know they can rely on.”
Stay tuned to 10magazine.com to find out Kris’ ten people to meet…
Text by Anders Christian Madsen
Photographs by Ian Kenneth Bird
Taken from the latest issue of 10 Men, REBEL HEART, on newsstands now…