Working from home is a relatively new concept for Kris Van Assche, the Belgian designer who once helmed his eponymous menswear label, Dior Homme, and is currently the creative director of luxurious leather house Berluti. As someone who already had access to different offices, having a workspace at home seemed superfluous, although obviously circumstances have changed.
Still, he draws a distinction between the type of introspective work he'd do in the sanctity of his home (a big library is involved) and the hands-on work he now does remotely with his design teams. But at least he gets to spend more time with his cat Frieda (6:50).
Van Assche recently feted a new line of upscale housewares from Berluti, including boiled leather vases and silver bowls. He talks about the design process (7:27) and how much of an inspiration Pierre Jeanneret is. He also shares his thoughts on the future of the fashion industry after Covid-19 (16:02).
The below interview is a transcribed version of ‘Vibe Check.’ It has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jian DeLeon: What's your work-from-home set-up look like?
Kris Van Assche: It's really just my dining room table and the chimney in the back. It made sense to put my computer there because it's close to where I have my plug and the printer that I just bought. I never really had an office at my house because between my own label, and either Dior or Berluti, I already had more than one office. But of course now it's a different situation. So I had to purchase a printer and the basic stuff I needed —the first week was a bit of a drama, but now I'm all set.
JD: Traditionally, is the home where you go to decompress?
KVA: Home is a place where I can think or do some research, but not so much computer work or sitting at a desk. I have a big library here, which during the week and I never really get the time to look at. So home is more about personal reflection rather than being in contact with the office.
JD: That's a quintessentially French way of looking at it, the romanticism of a home library.
KVA: Yeah, I guess so. I mean it's really a personal thing because I work a lot — and I've been working a lot for over 20 years — s o it's also quite important to oblige yourself to take breaks from time to time. I like my weekends to be weekends and my evenings to be evenings, you know?
JD: How has Frieda, your cat, been adjusting to seeing you around more?
KVA: She must be the most happy creature in the world with this quarantine; she gets all the attention 24 hours a day.
JD: You recently launched Berluti's housewares line. More than ever there's a more of a focus and attention being paid to interior design and the things people have at home.
KVA: Yeah, it feels like a very weird coincidence that we would be talking about homewares while everybody's sitting at home. The whole idea of me coming to Berluti two years ago was to challenge myself to do new stuff, and Berluti is so much about leather and the ultimate high-end clothing. It felt like a natural evolution to also start using leather, color, and patina in new directions. It all started with this initial idea I had of doing the Pierre Jeanneret pieces in Miami last November, we re-did them with new leathers.
I've been a personal collector of Pierre Jeanneret pieces for many years, and the way they used to be made in the '50s for Chandigarh was very often in very bright colors.It was a use of color that I was very much comfortable with, even though I've never been such a huge person on color. It opened up a lot of possibilities for me for the ready-to-wear. My shows are now crazy on color, so that's a whole new thing for me.
JD: Speaking of re imagining what already exists, I feel like that's similar to how many designers think about menswear. You had items like the KVA multi-lace sneakers or your adidas Ultra Boosts with the argyle pattern. It's familiar but you add your signature to it.
KVA: I like the idea of pieces that are there to last. When I was doing my own label, I would always say that I wasn't afraid of attacking a white shirt because it's classic — it's a white shirt. But I would always say: “We'll try to convince a guy to buy a new white shirt.” It better be a really good white shirt you know? That doesn't mean I can't totally admire extravaganza or avant-garde or in different ways, but this is just who I am.
JD: Any thoughts on where fashion will be headed in the next couple of years?
KVA: There is no longer just one dimension to fashion is there? You hear how the environment is doing so much better because the world has calmed down, and some people get all excited and think that you're now going to consume less and consume better and pay more attention and all that. As much as I would love it to be true, I'm not sure that it is going to make such a big difference.
What I think is that it might just accentuate the differences between different brands. Some brands are going to jump on the wagon as fast as they can with as much product as possible to make up for lost time and try and sell anything. But I think some brands will put more focus on the fact that that they work on quality, that they work on pieces that will last, that are respectful for the environment, and to the people who make them.
Stay tuned for new episodes of Vibe Check every Tuesday and Thursday.