He was kidding when he said he'd called his 12th collection Ashes as a pun on his name. What Kris Van Assche really had in mind was the dust on a working man's hands and clothes at the end of the day. Such a humble notion was reflected in pieces that had the plainness of a janitorial uniform, and a backdrop that looked like nothing so much as the biggest roll of toilet paper in the world. Offered in black and gray, the clothes had the appropriate utilitarian color scheme. Toward the end, they came blotched with ink or paint, as if there'd been an accident in the work closet. And they were accessorized with apronlike add-ons and pouches, along with saddle and messenger bags of all sizes that also emphasized utility.

In many of his collections until now, Van Assche has shown himself to be a dyed-in-the-wool romantic. Here, he injected some poetry into his working man's uniform with sheer fabrics, pants that tied in a big bow, and some après-work black leather.