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July 22 2014

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Kris Van Assche Talks Showing in Shanghai and Designing for an International Clientele

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Dior Homme

Seven years into his tenure as creative director of Dior Homme, it’s safe to say that Kris Van Assche has hit his stride. “One of his strongest collections yet,” said Style.com’s Tim Blanks of the Winter 2014 collection. Good news for Dior and Van Assche, because on Friday, the collection was shown in Shanghai, an important market for the house. Before the show, the busy designer found some time to chat with Style.com about Dior the global brand and what it’s like designing for men all over the world.

Why is it important for you to present the collection in Asia?

It’s become very, very important for Dior Homme as a brand, and so I’m very exited about that because it’s basically proof of how well Dior Homme is doing. We had our first show one year ago in Beijing, which was a huge success, so we’re doing it again now in Shanghai.

So the Beijing show last year, was that your first show you’d done in Asia?

Yeah. We had never had a show outside of Paris before.

What was that experience like?

It was a great experience because I’m used to doing a show only once. Bringing it all to a different country—it’s quite something. We’re trying to keep it interesting, you know? We make a different set, so everybody gets a different view on things. We do a local casting as well. We have to fly in the ateliers to do the fittings on the new guys and all that, so it brings along quite a lot of work, but it’s exciting because it actually allows you to see the same clothes on local guys, and so that together with the new setup makes it a new experience. For me, it’s less stressful because I kind of know that everything will be OK in the first show, so it’s a more enjoyable experience.

It’s interesting that you do a local casting. Do you see the clothes in a new way? Do you feel like they’re worn differently?

Well, even when we’re doing castings in Paris, seeing five hundred guys in castings, picking out the forty-five we’re actually going to use…I mean, the same jacket is going to look different on every guy anyway. So I’m not so surprised about that. And it has nothing to do with continents, Asia, Europe, whatever. That’s why fittings take so long, because we always try to find the right guy for the right look.

I’m very aware that I work for an international brand—I’m not only working for French guys. The collection is going to be sold throughout the world. It’s not about doing specific clothes for specific continents or specific people because it doesn’t really work like that. But you kind of have a worldwide view in a way.

So who is the client?

At Dior Homme, there’s not one type of client—you have different types of clients. You have a very traditional made-to-measure tailoring type of guy and then you have a very high-end fashion type of client and you have whatever’s in between. That’s the case usually in Paris, but it’s the case all over the world. If you go to Asia, you have real fashion people. They really go for the full-on fashion pieces. And then you have some very demanding, tailoring, made-to-measure clients. So you have these different demands of different types of clients, but you come across all of them on all continents.

When you’re designing, do you have that range of clients in mind?

It comes with the job. And my last show in January was really about exposing all that. The first silhouette of this show was a three-piece suit, a really made-to-measure suit with what I call the “Savile Row tradition” very much linked to the personality of Dior Homme. That was look one. And then the last outfit was really about white sneakers, baggy trousers, jeans, and all that. So that’s how big the difference gets at Dior Homme. The high-end tailoring makes my sportswear more luxurious and the activewear makes the tailoring more comfortable, easier to wear. So one constantly influences the other.

Are there other places in the world you would like to bring your collection?

It’ll probably one day make sense to take the shows to Brazil because everybody knows it’s a top growing market and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on there, but it’s really not on the agenda. For now, we’re really concentrating on Europe, the United States, China, Japan.

I know you’re also coming to New York soon, and you have the pop-up for the Dior Homme Autumn collection with M/M (Paris). Can you tell me a little about that?

I very much like these projects for the Autumn and Spring collections because it’s almost like shows in Paris—one show each, we just do it once, and so it’ll be a premiere. It’s very exciting. I’m actually there in the same space as the client and you get a much more direct reaction from people of whatever you’re presenting. Because behind the scenes for a show, it’s really behind the scenes—you basically wait [until] the day after to see whatever people thought. It’s an interesting experience—it’s a little scary because you’re in the middle of the room, but it’s nice. I very much love working with M/M. They always take things to another step, another level. It’s an inspiring exercise.

Photo: Courtesy of Dior Homme 

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