The Belgian designer, also known for his 11 years at Dior Homme, has created a collection for Chinese kidswear giant Balabala, which is said to outfit as many as 20 million families.
The fall range for girls and boys ages three to 14 is positioned at a higher price point than the usual Balabala offering. It will be introduced this week in 20 premium shops and two flagship stores in Greater China, as well as online.
Disclosing the project exclusively to WWD, Van Assche said he found the design exercise interesting and fun.
“At this stage of my professional life, and with this newfound freedom, the unexpected and challenging is exactly what I am looking for,” he said, characterizing it as a “great opportunity for me to introduce myself and my work to this new and young generation, most likely too young to have known my own label.”
A graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Van Assche established his signature label in 2005 — two years before he took the top design post at Dior — and put it on hiatus in 2015.
Known for youthful tailoring and loads of athletic and workwear influences, the Kris Van Assche collection also dabbled in womenswear.
For his Balabala project, the Paris-based Belgian designer decided to rework his signature collection for fall 2014, which referenced the clubbing and rave-party scene.
He reprised his multicolored dots and houndstooth motif, while the original suits, shirts, knits and sequins got a “kidswear makeover.” Van Assche also added sequin dresses and skirts for girls, plus sneakers and sunglasses.
The designer conscripted photographer Alessio Bolzoni and stylist Mauricio Nardi, who worked on his campaigns in 2014, and had them recreate similar images for the Balabala collaboration.
“It makes for a fun ‘then and now,’ the same mood and composition, a similar vibe of collection, back then on my runway models and now on seven- and eight-year-old girls and boys,” the designer commented.
Van Assche said he worked on the collaboration for the past eight months, all remotely due to travel restrictions related to China’s zero-COVID-19 policy.
“All fabrics, finishings and volumes were handpicked and decided by me in Paris,” he noted.
Van Assche said he decided to accept the collaboration thanks to a charity component.
“Balabala and I are making a donation to a charity helping kids with cancer. This is a cause I personally care a lot about,” he said, disclosing that he lost his mother to cancer recently.
Thanks to the donation, children from low-income families who are suffering from leukemia will be offered treatments implemented by the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation and the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, which is affiliated with the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine.
Since winding up his tenure at Berluti last year, Van Assche also signed on to mentor the master in creative direction program at Florentine fashion school Polimoda.
Balibala parent Semir is known in the West for being a minority stakeholder in Jason Wu. The fast-fashion giant operates some 8,500 stores across China. It also operates Juicy Couture, Marc O’Polo, and kidswear labels Hey Junior, Asics Kids and Puma Kids within China.