Kris Van Assche launches into children’s fashion – WWD

Kris Van Assche, who ended a three-year term as artistic director of Berluti last year, has embarked on a surprising and unique design project: children’s clothing.

The Belgian designer, also known for his 11 years at Dior Homme, created a collection for Chinese children’s fashion giant Balabala that would outfit up to 20 million families.

The autumn range for girls and boys aged 3 to 14 is positioned at a higher price than the usual Balabala offer. It will be introduced this week in 20 premium boutiques and two flagship stores in Greater China, as well as online.

Revealing the project exclusively to WWD, Van Assche said he found the design exercise interesting and fun.

“At this point in my professional life, and with this newfound freedom, the unexpected and the challenge are exactly what I’m looking for,” he said, calling it “a great opportunity for me to present myself and present my work to this new and young generation, probably too young to have known my own label.

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Van Assche created his signature label in 2005 – two years before taking up the designer job at Dior – and put it on hiatus in 2015.

Known for its youthful cut and many sports and workwear influences, the Kris Van Assche collection also leaned into women’s fashion.

For his Balabala project, the Paris-based Belgian designer decided to rework his signature fall 2014 collection, which referenced the clubbing and rave-party scene.

It reverted to its multicolored polka dots and houndstooth pattern, while the original suits, shirts, knits and sequins got a makeover. Van Assche also added sequin dresses and skirts for the girls, as well as sneakers and sunglasses.

Balabala’s dotted looks are a nod to a 2014 adult collection by Kris Van Assche.

The designer recruited 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 creates a ‘then and now’ fun, same vibe and makeup, similar collectible vibe, then on my catwalk models and now on seven and eight year old girls and boys,” commented the Creator.

Van Assche said he’s been working on the collaboration for the past eight months, all remotely due to travel restrictions related to China’s zero-COVID-19 policy.

“All fabrics, finishes 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 donating to a charity that helps children with cancer. It’s a cause close to my heart,” he said, revealing that he recently lost his mother to cause of cancer.

Kris Van Assche

Thanks to this donation, children from low-income families suffering from leukemia will be offered treatments set up by the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation and the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, affiliated with the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine.

Since ending his tenure at Berluti last year, Van Assche has also signed on to mentor the Masters in Creative Direction program at Florentine fashion school Polimoda.

Semir, a relative of Balibala, is known in the West for being a minority shareholder in Jason Wu. The fast fashion giant operates some 8,500 stores across China. It also operates Juicy Couture, Marc O’Polo and children’s clothing brands Hey Junior, Asics Kids and Puma Kids in China.

Luz W. German