Salon d’honneur of the Grand Palais. The first clue. A new location for this afternoon’s show, something’s going on at Dior homme. Kris Van Assche is here to tell us more, the creative mind behind the menswear collection at the LVMH owned brand has given MFF an exclusive preview of the collection that is about to hit the catwalk. A collision of luxury and street style, blending tailoring and youth culture. A project in development, the communications team ready to pump up the volume. This year the house turns 70 and in April Van Ascche will have been there for 10 years. “There have been changes in the last year, it feels like working in a new company, there’s a really good energy,” Van Assche explained to MFF in an exclusive interview, while having his picture taken for this edition, with a model wearing one of the preview looks from the fall/winter 2017 show. A look that starts to tell the story of this season’s silhouette. A new look for men, bringing together the atelier and the street. Tailored jackets reconstructed, leaner, more fitted at the cuffs but with the aim of allowing the arms to move freely. Wide leg trousers, cropped skater style. With the portbonneur pendants of Monsieur Christian Dior darkened and transformed into chain accessories. Gloves and white socks add a graphic flash. Goth style bands on trouser hems or on sneakers with thick, contrasting soles, sporty on classic. And that fetish style writing, HarDior, chunky and emblematic of an aesthetic mix, a mantra that can be seen on bags and clothes, as well as on the ties worn with suits.
Kris Van Assche with a look from his Fall/Winter 2017 menswear collection (shot exclusively by Pascal Gambarte for MFF)
“It’s symbolic of the house’s spirit, it’s a rave party, hard core” said Kris Van Assche, “because now the two concepts of luxury and fashion coexist.” From the first look, that crowns a graphic that has musical pathos. Black gothic, omnipresent. Black and red stripes for a New Wave passion. Coloured threads from the atelier are left like flowing angel hairs. A flash of orange, inside a dramatic cape with zips at the sides. Metallic stitches, soft metal. Gilet and long furs sprayed green, like something out of a hip hop video. Safety pins on pullovers and tennis visors, giant rave party sunglasses, nocturnal bears for new age candy boys. Backpack straps on duffle coats. The electronic feel of gabber music. Images by Dan Witz, the immortalized faces of crowds at a concert. Printed and imprinted. A moment in movement, also seen on sequined jackets.
Stefano Roncato: Ten years at Dior homme. Has it gone quickly been difficult, strange?
Kris Van Assche: A little bit of everything. But I don't like looking back too much. Even for myself, I don’t have a big archive, I don’t look at the old collections much. I think about what I could do better and what’s coming next. It’s been like that for 10 years at Dior homme as well. It’s been an incredible journey. But I feel like in the last year and a half there’s been an acceleration in the ambition and the development of the brand. And in my creative direction over the last three seasons. I don’t look back to a year ago anymore. Sometimes it feels like a new company.
SR: In what way?
KVA: We’re growing. Serge Brunschwig became President about a year ago (see box). The brand is evolving and expanding. More meetings, more collections, more accessories. It feels like someone decided to put their foot on the gas and for me that’s really interesting. To be honest, deep down it was totally a coincidence that I stopped my own label at that time. They were two things that came about at the same time. A lucky coincidence.
SR: How have you translated that at Dior homme?
KVA: In my years here there have obviously been ups and downs, shifts and movements. A big part of my job was to build a luxury brand. Lots of labels are fashion or luxury. Maybe at a certain point Dior Homme was the luxury side and my label the fashion. Now it’s all together, it represents the next step. People know we are a luxury label so now I can push the creative factor.
SR: The collection seems more stylish compared to your debut when there were lots of suits….
KVA: There are still lots of suits, but they’re younger and cooler. I’ve read a lot about how suits are apparently over, how no one wants to wear them…but I think that Dior homme is the suit, it’s not dead. All you have to do is invent a new suit. I was explaining my idea during the hair and make up run through. Imagine going to a rave party where the music is blasting, hard core. People are dancing and in the middle of it all you have one guy standing there. Everyone else looks trashy and he’s wearing a beautiful suit. That’s the Dior boy.
SR: It almost sounds like the script for a perfume ad campaign…
KVA: When I create a catwalk show, there’s always a concept. This time it’s the idea of being very much Dior. On the top, tailoring, with the cropped sleeves, very rich. On the botton, streetwear style skater trousers. A mix of the two. The contrast is what defines it as the new suit.
SR: How has your customer changed? Are you looking a new target audience?
KVA: I don’t feel obliged to choose. We can dress different types of men, like we’ve done in the campaign. Obviously there’s Robert Pattinson. Last season he was together with A$ap Rocky and Larry Clark. This season with Boy George, A$ap Rocky again and Rami Malek from Mr. Robot. They are different types of men. Different body types, ages, physiques. Dior is a state of mind, not a body type.
SR: Is music part of the story?
KVA: When we were working on the soundtrack, I spoke about elements in the collection. Mr. Dior, New Wave and New Romantic which I love. Rave Party. Gabber Music. Candy boys wearing playful necklaces with teddy bears. I realized they were souvenirs from when I was little. Different styles of music and aspects. They’re all separate but in my mind they come together in the collection. Aggressive and poetic. Rave party but classic. It comes out in the silhouettes as well. When you match two contrasting references you see them more. One is the opposite of the other, breaking the cliché. It’s not just a repetition, it becomes something new.
SR: The HarDior stands out. What prompted this return to the logo?
KVA: Lots of luxury brands are looking at sportswear. People love to wear big logo prints by sportswear brands. There’s already been a period of logo-mania but it was linked to this idea of people showing off their wealth. Now it comes more from street culture: street gone luxury.
SR: What do you think of social media?
KVA: We just opened the Dior homme Instagram account. I think this the right time to showcase our image. It’s the right moment, we have so much more to say.
SR: Isn’t it much quicker, sometimes too much?
KVA: Lots of people only look at Instagram, it’s a quick way of communicating and they don’t loose time trying to understand. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of being too simple or simplifying something so that it has to be instantly understood. If people are interested, we’ll explain it to them. If they don’t want to know, I hope they like it but if they don’t I can’t make everyone happy. If I worked on a collection that everyone loved without one word of explanation, it would be really weird.
SR: Who is your target?
KVA: We have our followers, the fashion kids follow us too. But if you’re just looking for nail polishes, make-up and bags, you won’t find them. We already know exactly who we want to reach.
SR: Three words to describe the brand now?
KVA: Maybe we should say Christian Dior homme. The union of Monsieur Christian Dior and Dior homme.
By Stefano Roncato - MFF Magazine for Fashion
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