Kris Van Assche Of Dior Homme’s People To Meet: The Incomparable Boy George
“Boy George is, for me, the ultimate reference from when I was a teenager,” Van Assche says, reflecting on the flamboyant star he chose for his SS17 campaign for Dior Homme. “He was screaming, saying that difference was OK – that you could actually celebrate difference – which is so not the mood of the moment now. So I felt like everybody needed a little wake- up call with everything that’s going on in the world.” For that delicate boy growing up in provincial Belgium in the 1980s, Boy George – with his hats and make-up and provocative statements – represented an all-important sense of escapism and hope. “I feel like he definitely made a big difference in the lives of many young people in my generation,” Van Assche notes.
Van Assche was just six years old in 1982 when Culture Club released their best-known single Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, but the presence of Boy George throughout the decade – and the new wave movement Culture Club helped spawn – would come to embody Van Assche’s understanding of self-expression and fuel his passage from small-town outsider to designer extraordinaire. A sensitive boy, he wasn’t bullied in school, but was aware he didn’t quite belong. And while the young
Van Assche didn’t style himself in the image of Boy George either, he certainly sensed a bond. “Did I feel different? Yes. Did I need somebody to tell me this was great? Yes,” he asserts. “Growing up in a small village in Belgium, being an only child, you need examples, you need people to tell you that being different is OK, that you should celebrate it. It’s not just about saying it’s OK – you should put it out there.”
More than three decades on, as artistic director of one the biggest menswear brands in the world, Van Assche now sees in the current reactionary zeitgeist an acute need for what Boy George represented to him during his childhood. “What he and others managed to do in the 1980s, I’m not sure artists get away with nowadays, weirdly enough. It’s very strange. I find we live in a very conservative moment,” he reflects. “He was a flamboyant, eccentric image. He made a huge impact on the political side of things.”
And for a designer who now relives through his collections many of the things he admired from afar throughout his adolescence – raving, getting up to mischief at the funfair, dancing the night away – what Boy George stands for will never go out of fashion.
Text by Anders Christian Madsen
Photographer Ian Kenneth Bird
Taken from the latest issue of 10 Men, REBEL HEART, on newsstands now…