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 today 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.
It’s time to head West—cinematically speaking, at least. Next month’s Cannes Film Festival lineup includes a surprising number of Westerns, including The Homesman, starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Hilary Swank (and co-written and directed by Jones), and Deux Jours, Une Nuit, a “Belgian Western” starring Marion Cotillard. We won’t attempt to explain how or why the world’s top filmmakers became collectively inspired by Western stories, but we will say this: From a stylistic standpoint, it makes perfect sense. Consider the recent obsession with all things Americana, a subject our editor in chief detailed in our latest issue of Style.com/Print. And of course, there was the Chanel Metiers d’Arts show in Dallas last December, in which models stomped down a hay-strewn runway in leather fringe, big gallon hats, and Native American motifs. It was the show that sparked a thousand Instagrams and had even the most discerning editors rethinking cowboy boots. As usual, Chanel was ahead of something huge. We’re curious to see if these new films at Cannes encourage a similar surge of interest in old-school American culture.
Despite the fact that it snowed in New York this week, the red carpet was full of summer vibes. Winter coats returned on the East Coast, and in Hollywood, short hemlines and light colors flourished for a bevy of parties, premieres, and award shows.
On Tuesday, Chloë Grace Moretz attended the opening night celebration of The Library in New York in an ecru lace frock with a black yolk from the Carven Pre-Fall ’14 lineup. The same night, another one of our favorite A-list teens, Kiernan Shipka, stepped out in a white, yellow, and gray patterned Preen dress for Jimmy Choo’s Choo.08 launch party in L.A.
With the premiere tour for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 officially underway, Emma Stone spent a lot of time on the red carpet this week. She stuck to a similar color palette for her Berlin appearances on Tuesday, choosing a light blue Erdem Fall ’14 frock dotted with red beading for the photo call and a Chanel Pre-Fall ’14 dress with a pale lavender skirt and red-striped bodice for the premiere that evening.
In case you were missing all that awards season glamour, Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards brought it back with a summery twist. Ellie Goulding walked the red carpet in a white Emporio Armani dress with cutouts on the sides, while Lupita Nyong’o opted for a gray Chanel Fall ’14 dress speckled with colorful geometrics. Rihanna strayed from the red-carpet norm, turning up in a beige corseted bodysuit and a pink silk robe from Ulyana Sergeenko’s Spring ’14 Haute Couture that took the leg-baring trend to a new level. Your move, Angelina.
Regarding Susan Sontag is a new documentary playing at the Tribeca Film Festival this weekend and will air on HBO this fall. The film is an intimate look at the influential American writer, filmmaker, political activist, and cultural critic. Sontag is widely considered to be one of the most important, outspoken, and provocative thinkers of the 20th century. Her writings include novels, short stories, and film scripts, but she was best known for her critical essays that examined all kinds of social and artistic issues. Sadly, Sontag died of leukemia in 2004 at 71 years old, but her work still resonates today. Style.com spoke to the film’s director, Nancy Kates, about Sontag’s creative process and wide-ranging influence, and what inspired her to make the film.
What made you decide to make this film about Susan? I imagine that you have followed her work for a long time.
I was saddened by Sontag’s death in late 2004, which was also the year my father passed away. Sontag was a heroic figure to me in my youth. Like many smart young women in the 1980s, when I was 20 or so, I wanted to grow up to be like her—confidant, fearless, supersmart, and not willing to play second fiddle to men. I was always interested in what she had to say—I had the idea to make the film [when I was] at my office, and when I went home, I counted the Sontag books on my shelf. I had seven of the sixteen books she published in her lifetime, which seemed like a good sign, particularly because I read her purely out of interest and not because her work was assigned to me in a classroom setting. In some ways, this film is a look back from middle age at the person I was thirty years ago.
Susan’s writing was incredibly powerful, articulate, and candid. She also had a wide range of interests. What do you think her greatest passion was?
Critic Wayne Koestenbaum, who is interviewed in the film and served as one of our advisers, refers to Sontag as a “cosmophage”—someone who eats the world or consumes the world. It is probably not fair to single out one of her passions—she had passions for words; ideas; books; photographs and the realm of photography; her lovers, most of whom were women; and for more ordinary pleasures, such as Chinese food. Her work was a deep expression of most of those passions, though she hid her sexuality, which, ironically, probably limited her ability to write fiction. Interviewed about her historical novel The Volcano Lover, in 1992, Sontag told a journalist, “I’m interested in various kinds of passionate engagement. All my work says be serious, be passionate, wake up.”
Which one of your interview subjects offered the most insight into Susan’s creative process?
I think it is unsporting to play favorites among the interviewees, but Don Levine, who spent a long time as a sort of unpaid editor and writing collaborator, was extremely helpful in describing the long stretches of work they did together on Death Kit and Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, which they edited together, though Sontag is the sole editor on the cover of the book. So many of our interviewees are also writers; they are speaking about Sontag through their own experiences writing on other subjects.
How do you think Susan was able to be both an influential critic and a sort of celebrity?
Sontag was unique in American letters, in that she had a mind that would not quit, and was also very beautiful, which was part of her appeal and partly why she became so famous, though I think she also sought fame in a way that had been unfashionable among the previous generation, i.e., the writers of the 1950s and early sixties. Like many people who become famous, she craved that sort of public attention, and needed it, in certain ways. I don’t know that she would have had the celebrity without the looks, even though it pains me to say so. She was also willing to be a bit outrageous in her public statements, such as the one she made during the Vietnam War: “The white race is the cancer of human history.” Through sheer force of personality—and considerable brainpower—Sontag made sure that she was not going to be dismissed or condescended to because of her gender, managing to avoid the sort of treatment that most women in the public eye experienced in the 1960s and seventies, and sometimes even today.