The best part of a John Baldessari piece is that you can almost hear the color land on his black-and-white photographs and photomontages with a splat. Kris Van Assche was looking at Baldessari's work to inspire his own this season—in particular, Man Running, which gave the collection its title, Run—and a jolt of color hit Van Assche's black-and-white looks with that same comic whomp. It was, in an entirely complimentary way, almost funny.
Humor is not a cardinal virtue at the house of Van Assche, whose unsmiling seriousness of purpose can sometimes make it seem like the designer travels with his own personal Belgian rain cloud overhead. But there was a freewheeling, cartoony element in the collection he showed today. It was there in the colors that blotted the looks, literally overlaid in the Baldessari way—puffed-up tanks or tops pulled right down over other pieces. It was also present in the way that Van Assche inflated elements of traditional menswear, making macro hound's teeth appliqués of houndstooth patterns, chevrons of supersize herringbone prints, and buttons of silk-knot cuff links. Baldessari may have been the stated influence, but one shrewd observer saw a hint of Claes Oldenburg in the supersizing. That fit, too.
Van Assche politely declined to pursue that line of inquiry. After the show, he was banging on his usual interpretive drum—how he wants to mix sportiness into traditional menswear. He conceded that this season he mixed pop in as well. You felt that not only in the colors but also in the new proportions of the slightly shrunken jacket with its rounded lapels, the shirttails peeking out from under vests and sweaters, the longer stretched-out pants. It was less "Run" than fun (the directive, Michel Gaubert said after the show, that the designer had given him for the soundtrack). The athletic stringency Van Assche often favors gave way to a looser-limbed bounce.