Inspired by traditions and ethnic - Jan-Jan Van Essche

Jan-Jan van Essche 

- Describe yourself as a designer and as a person. What is the main difference between both descriptions?
- I’m not sure if I am the right person to describe myself, maybe it’s better to ask someone that is close to me. But if I must describe myself anyway I can say that my zodiac is Gemini - not that I am strong believer of astrology - also I have two identical first names and I have a twin brother as well. I always see the good side and the bad side of things, people or situations. I always try to unify opposites.

And I don’t think there is a difference between me as a designer and me as a person: after all it’s me as a person who designs clothes that carry my own name. These are not two different people.

- How had you realized that you want to become a designer?
- I don’t know how exactly I realized that. There was no one single thing or event that brought me to that point.
But I do know I’ve had the feeling I wanted to become a designer since I was really young. Not that I’ve been extremely busy with it – didn’t plan it or anything- it was more of a subconscious feeling I had, like I knew this was what I would eventually end up doing.

- First made item you were proud of? Do you still have it?
- One of the first things I’ve made and still remember was kind of an oriental style jacket. I made it when I was 16 or 17. It was something of a mix between a kimono and a denim jacket. I really liked it and wore it a lot. It must still be somewhere in my parent’s house. I must look for it. I wonder if I would still be proud about it though.

- What things inspire you?
- People around me - friends as well as passers-by - conversations I have with them, how they move and the way they carry themselves. Music and musicians are always a big influence too. Art and creativity in general can motivate me a lot to continue and go deeper into what I’m doing. And of course traditional and ethnical clothing are a very big influence in my designs. All these things can trigger ideas that lead to new work. But sometimes the best idea comes when you least expect it, so I always try to keep my eyes open for anything that might inspire me.

- Do you have special rituals before you start to create?
- No not really. Except putting on some music that matches my mood at that time. But I wouldn’t consider that as a ritual.

- What are the basic values for you as for designer?
- I think respect and comfort are important values in my work. Respect for the people who wear my clothes, respect for the craft of making clothes, respect for the people who work with me on creating the collection.
Comfort is an important feeling I try to put into all of my clothes. I hope this could help giving a self-conscious and relaxed feeling to the person who wears it.

- What was the reason to create just a one collection per year?
- It has to do with the fact that it gives me the opportunity to learn wile growing into this. It gives me the chance to reflect on all the facets of the collection a bit more: on the design part and on its business part.
But it also has something to do with my trying to find ways of making fashion that fit with my personal views and believes. For example, I think fashion would not get worse if it all slowed down a little bit, if the turnover between the seasons would be less abrupt.

- You are creating unisex, shapeless and oversized silhouettes. Do you have the ideal before you start to design?
- Of course I have an image in front of me that I want to create. But mostly it is not a very clear image. It’s quite a vague shape; like a kind of shadow that gets clearer and clearer as I’m in the process of creating.
And although quite some of my designs are indeed very loose and oversized, to me they are very clear volumes that are very deliberate and thought true. The fact that a lot of my clothes can be worn by both men and women is a result of those shapes. I like the concept that the body shapes the garment, rather than the other way around. So everybody will appear different in my clothes.

- You are based in Antwerp, Belgium. Does it influence your expression and creativity?
- I guess it must influence me for sure. But I’m not really aware of how or when... It is my hometown, so it will always be a part of who I am. It’s the city that I live and work in, so probably it will leave some trace in what I do. Antwerp does have a very specific atmosphere to it, and I’m sure that you can feel that in my work.
I grew up knowing the Antwerp fashion designers, so I’m sure some of that Antwerp style must have influenced my work. Especially I was inspired by the individuality and unique approach.

- Do you need to march and fight to get everyone’s attention?
- No, I don’t have that feeling. It is a lot of work to get the collection ready and out there. And we’ve been quite lucky with the response it has got so far. But it doesn’t feel like a fight, I wouldn’t know who I would have to be fighting anyway. It is not an easy road, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fight.

- If you can name it what is the biggest achievement in your young career?
- That’s difficult to say, I have the feeling it has just started.

- Future plans, dream collaborations and hopes?
- I wish and hope the collections will keep on growing slowly but surely, as it has done so far. Also I want to build a solid base that can continue producing beautiful clothing.
The future plan is getting collection #3 ready, due June 2012.


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