For his first big display and runway show for the international audience as the designer project of this season’s Pitti Uomo, Jan-Jan Van Essche sought to distill his own essence.
A sense of tranquility ran through the presentation, held inside the colonnaded hallways of the striking 13th-century Santa Maria Novella and in the adjacent frescoed cloister where models stood at the end of the show to the beat of drums.
During a preview while still busy prepping the collection, the Antwerp-based designer said he is not reinventing the wheel, but rather reworking menswear tropes with “subtleties.”
As the Pitti folks — those peacocking in the courtyard of the fairgrounds and designers in their fall collections — embrace workwear with gusto, Van Essche toyed with the same references, adding a layer of soulfulness and softness that struck a chord.
Crisp and tactile fabrics such as silk-looking cotton were worked into flowing silhouettes with elongated tunic shirts under blanket-like overcoats swishing over carrot pants; jumpsuits were turned into sophisticated and artsy two-piece attire; wide-legged suits knotted on the side looked as comfy as pajama sets, and monk-appropriate caftans, one particularly appealing done in turmeric yellow was the show-stopping piece spicing up the muddy color palette.
Van Essche often refers to his own design as “open shapes,” which one could tell watching some of the models move freely for the contemporary dance performance that capped off the three-act display.
“I know I’m not doing things that many are doing, it’s not a big stream but I don’t feel lonely; there are enough people pushing the same kind of stories, or philosophy,” the designer said, revealing his admiration for the late Issey Miyake and the Japanese fashion pack as a whole.
Guests toasted his runway debut with sake shots.