After a few earnest but flawed seasons in the menswear arena, Kris Van Assche just might be proving that womenswearhis original ambition, as it turns outis what serves his talents best. An expressed desire to "keep things small" meant there was no big show, no leaden theme, to weigh down his third effort on the women's side: It was just a simple presentation of 25 looks, with six models. The designer's launchpad was, as usual, elements from his menswear, with a feminine spin. Swiss cotton shirtings were reconfigured as almost sheer shorts or trousers. Piqué was cut into a neat little jacket. The silk of a tie was used as banding on a full black skirt. And a shawl-collared tuxedo vest was revealingly slashed from stem to stern in the back.
Van Assche's love of all things Latin American also helped feminize the look. Frida Kahlo was referenced in the emphatic eyebrows and slicked-back, orchid-adorned hair (and in the parrot motif embroidered on crisp cottons that could otherwise double as bedsheets). Elsewhere, the designer did pretty well at sublimating such an obvious influence. Mexico provided the sulfurous yellow, sky blue, acid orange, and Catholic white of his palette; it also echoed in the floor-sweeping silk skirts and in the elasticized necklines and tied waists of voluminous smocks. But irrespective of those touches, the collection could be read, simply, as a contemporary take on slouchy ease. Case in point: Van Assche likes to put pockets in everything, even the most billowing skirt, so hands always have a place to hide.