Art Basel 2017: A moment with Dior Homme's Kris Van Assche

Updated 11th December 2017
Credit: Patrick Demarchelier
Art Basel 2017: A moment with Dior Homme's Kris Van Assche
Written by Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNNMiami
Contributors Oscar Holland, CNN
The relationship between fashion and art is well-established. The two worlds have mingled for many years, with many designers drawing inspiration from artists for their lines, luxury fashion conglomerates building impressive art collections, and museums hosting catwalk shows.
During Art Basel Miami Beach, there were a number of fashion collaborations and parties programmed among an endless running order of art and design exhibits. Dior Homme hosted a private dinner at the Webster boutique, in partnership with French gallery Laffanour Galerie Downtown, where a string of original Akari light sculptures by Japanese-American artist and architect Isamu Noguchi were on display alongside six lamps customized in the style of Noguchi by the brand's artistic director, Kris Van Assche.
Noguchi lamps on display at Dior Homme's event in Miami
Noguchi lamps on display at Dior Homme's event in Miami Credit: Emilio Collavino
Dior Homme's Black Carpet collection framed a long dining table that seated guests including ASAP Rocky, Ricky Martin and Architectural Digest editor Amy Astley.
This year marked Van Assche's 10th anniversary at the creative helm, making him the label's longest serving artistic director. His longevity is particularly noteworthy at a time when fashion houses are swapping creative directors like football clubs do players.
During his reign, the 41-year-old Belgian has quietly ingrained a minimalist, urban identity into Dior Homme, and over the years, his shows have become tent pole during Paris' menswear fashion weeks.
 Kris Van Assche (center) with Cordell Broadus and ASAP Rocky
Kris Van Assche (center) with Cordell Broadus and ASAP Rocky Credit: Saskia Lawaks
CNN spoke to Van Assche in a quiet corner of the Webster in Miami's South Beach under the glowing canopy Noguchi lamps.
CNN: What brings you to Miami?
Kris Van Assche: We had this idea of collaborating with Downtown Gallery in Paris, so I've been personalizing some a series of Noguchi lamps. I was a little bit scared about it, because it's something that might interfere with an artistic project but we've worked on this for a long time, and in a very respectful way.
How often do you find yourself looking to the design world for inspiration?
Inspiration is not something that I turn on and off in my head; it's not something that I put in my agenda. I think it's a constant learning process. My work is so much about finding inspiration, making new goals and finding new stories to tell, so it comes really naturally the minute I open my eyes.
A lamp personalized in the style of Isamu Noguchi by Kris Van Assche
A lamp personalized in the style of Isamu Noguchi by Kris Van Assche Credit: Dior
Do you see a closer relationship between design and fashion today, or do you think it's always been there?
I think there is obviously a close connection because (they're both) art forms. In French we say "applique" -- an art form of useful objects like fashion. So I think there is a link and I (often) look into it, because it's so interesting to see how other people work creatively. Whether it's about space or being useful or whatever, it's just a constant inspiration for me.
Going back to the Noguchi lamps, can you tell us a little bit more about how you personalized such a classic design?
The first thing you notice is how delicate they are. They are totally handmade and you can immediately tell it's from a Japanese designer. There is something very delicate and poetic about it. I learned that (Noguchi's) father was a poet, which I think is sweet.
There are a lot of round forms and similar shapes, but each one is different because they're done by hand. To personalize them we tried to find the paper that is as close to original as we can get. (We then) printed my Instagram flowers on them and used the same type of glue (Noguchi) used to fix them.
It's, in a way, very respectful. But there's also something a bit urban about (the lamps), which is my side of the story. We glue them in the way people might do when sticking up posters for parties or concerts in the street. It's a very delicate exercise, because of the fragility of it, but there is also something very urban about it.
A lamp personalized in the style of Isamu Noguchi by Kris Van Assche
A lamp personalized in the style of Isamu Noguchi by Kris Van Assche Credit: Dior
With Dior Homme's Black Carpet collection, you're rethinking red carpet attire. What does that mean, and why did you want to do it?
Awards have always been about tailoring and, more specifically, those black suits. We've been making tuxedos forever, but I realized that there was something more to offer. There is such big demand that, more and more, I feel like men really want to stand out. They no longer want to blend in by wearing a black suit.
So I play around with all those codes of dressing up in couture, sequins, embroideries, flowers -- things that are very intimately related to the house of couture, Dior. But we're doing it in a very masculine way for menswear. That's what this is about.
As we reach the end of 2017 and look towards the new year, what's on your mind?
I think Dior Homme is riding a very good wave. We've had a big boost. There have been tons of projects, collections keep growing and interest keeps growing, so we're in very good spirits. I guess the sky is the limit.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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