Belgian fashion designers use everyman muse

The man on the street became catwalk star Friday as a host of Belgian designers showed off an urban cool inspired by mundane reality in their spring-summer collections at Paris fashion week.

"I want to embellish everyday life, that's what I do best," Kris Van Assche said after an austere, strong, sombre show in a vast, disused warehouse on the borders of the Seine River.

Van Assche, a graduate from Antwerp who worked with Hedi Slimane at Yves Saint-Laurent and is artistic director for Dior Homme, represents the cutting edge of Belgium's new generation of couturiers.

He said he did not care for the "fantasy of the podium" because his man "is from the street, he gets his hands dirty, his clothes".

"I like to mix genres," Van Assche said, referring to his coats with one longer half turned into an apron.

"I like it when clothes become hybrid," the designer in his mid-thirties said, "that's reality."

He had an elegant but also practical urban everyman in mind for his show.

Belts were replaced by simple white stitching on black trousers while keys on jewelled chains hung on ankle length floaty trousers, hovering above black leather boots.

Van Assche's army of tall, slender, pale-faced, immaculately groomed men were uniformly dressed in a strict palette of whites, greys and black, the only variation coming with stonewashed jeans and straight mid-length canvas jackets.

It was a more mad-hat, fun-filled collection on offer from Walter Van Beirendonck, another Antwerp graduate from the generation before Van Assche.

The everyman was still present in Van Beirendonck's familiar chunky, hairy, fat models, though the clothes he displayed in a central Paris nightclub to modern disco music were more cartoon-like and playful.

He combined tailored tartan suits with imaginative bags including a near life-size crocodile ruck-sack, or patchwork t-shirts with ankle leather trainers that had been holed with the words "Hope" and "Unite".

Open shirts and vests revealed chests covered by pearl necklaces, while the models' eyes were shielded by thick spaceman sunglasses coloured in bright orange, blue or green.

Dries Van Noten, who had formed part of "The Antwerp Six" alongside Van Beirendonck for a London show in the eighties, presented his collection in Paris on Thursday evening, with a style closer to Van Assche's urban chic.

Cans of beer cooled in ice buckets in another Seine location, this time under a bridge surrounded by metal pillars and walls covered in graffiti.

The setting was "raw, rough but very beautiful," Van Noten said, explaining that the space captured the kind of metropolitan man he had in mind.

"I used a lot of street culture, of London in the seventies, and French elegance," Van Noten said, along with the "toughness" of the British "skinheads" and "a touch of New York coolness".

Sticking close to daily life even when working in high fashion was key for Van Noten and Van Assche, but both also played on the difference between appearance and reality.

"The coats look tweed but in fact they are linen and nylon," Van Noten said of his collection. The winter feel was just an impression, "the boots look like very heavy boots but are actually very light."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little