By his own admission, the bold red in Jan-Jan Van Essche’s spring lineup is a bit out of character. For the past 21 seasons — broken down into 12 summer collections and nine winter projects — the Belgian designer had been more focused on earthy tones for the tranquil, functional oversize silhouettes he favors.
This season, the 22nd for the brand, a swatch of crimson that he received among fabric samples stayed on his desk — and his mind. “The longer I and others in the studio looked at it, the more it made sense to try, and it somehow became central. I wanted something bold but still very natural, something positive to give us the extra energy to go out in the open,” he said over the phone.
But it wasn’t until he decided to add the indigo-dyed denim — a new category he’d long wanted to work — that his mental image of the season came together around this classic, nautical color palette, with a nudge from a photography book on the California coast he’d been perusing.
“After my last season, I was wondering if I was going on auto-pilot, getting deeper and deeper into technicalities or design aspects,” he said.
For longtime followers of Van Essche, or those new to the Belgian brand, there was plenty to look at in his gender-irrelevant lineup: the relaxed-fit denim jacket and carpenter-style jeans; the bright red hoodie with its generous proportions and hidden drawstrings that could turn this sporty piece into a blowsy statement top; and plenty of great shirts and long tunics in tactile materials.
Add to that proportions that he cut a tad closer to the body than before, and the sum of these changes amounted to the fresh outlook Van Essche was looking for.