An official announcement is expected imminently, marking the first big change at Christian Dior Couture since Pietro Beccari arrived as chairman and CEO six weeks ago.
Dior indicated Van Assche’s successor would be named “subsequently.”
According to sources, Kim Jones will take up the plum design role two months after exiting as Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director, reuniting him with Beccari, who had worked with the English designer when he was the No. 2 executive at Vuitton.
He joins a clutch of prominent designers at Dior, headlined by Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessory collections, and Victoire de Castellane, its fine-jewelry designer since 1998.
LVMH continues to flex its muscles in the burgeoning men’s fashion space, having lured Hedi Slimane back to the group to take over Céline and extend that 73-year-old brand into men’s wear for the first time.
The French luxury giant has also been investing heavily in Berluti, now under the design leadership of Haider Ackermann, and Loro Piana, embarking on a growth phase under a new chief executive.
Vuitton menswear will also attract attention and buzz when it discloses its designer change. Sources said the house has held discussions with Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver and candidates put forth by Nicolas Ghesquière, Vuitton’s artistic director of women’s collections.
With his streetwear credibility, 345,000 Instagram followers and loads of famous friends, Jones will be sure to shake up Dior Homme, whose image has remained largely tethered to the slim tailoring pioneered by Slimane and elaborated upon by Van Assche, who had been Slimane’s underling before rising to the top design post in 2007.
In a statement, Beccari thanked Van Assche “for contributing to the amazing growth of Dior Homme by creating an elegant and contemporary silhouette for men. He wrote an important chapter in the history of Dior Homme and played a key role in its development.ˮ
Van Assche thanked LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault “for the trust he placed in me,” along with “Sidney Toledano and Serge Brunschwig for their warm welcome at Dior and their continuous support during all those years of collaboration.”
After more than 20 years leading the Dior fashion house, Toledano in February became chairman and ceo of LVMH Fashion Group, which comprises brands including Céline, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Kenzo, Loewe and Emilio Pucci. Meanwhile, Brunschwig, who had been the No. 2 executive at Dior under Toledano and the head of Dior Homme, took up the management helm of Fendi, succeeding Beccari in one of the French conglomerate’s biggest management shuffles in years.
Van Assche was a popular if low-key figure at Dior Homme, faithful to the founder’s penchant for nip-waisted silhouettes and floral inspiration and to Slimane’s influential template of sleek suits and dark sportswear with a tinge of rock ’n’ roll and winks to skating culture.
He partnered with management to lead the brand even further upscale, extend its global reach with a range of fashion shows in Asia and broaden the brand image with a range of celebrity pitchmen spanning from A$AP Rocky and Boy George to Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan.
In his statement, Van Assche said: “It is with great emotion that I thank my team, my studio and the ateliers. Their support and their unique talent and ‘savoir-faire’ have made all my creations possible.ˮ
After 11 years as artistic director of Dior Homme, “Kris Van Assche will continue to express his talent and creativity within the LVMH Group. His next assignment will be announced at a later stage,” Dior added.
Van Assche’s next move could not immediately be learned.
He might be tempted to revive his signature label, which he shelved in 2015 after a 10-year run, citing challenging market conditions for small-scale, independent fashion brands.
“I feel the need to take a break and some distance to better think about how to develop my brand,” he said at the time.
The Belgian designer had shipped his signature collection to about 130 doors in 32 countries, with the business concentrated in Asia.
Known for its youthful tailoring and loads of athletic and workwear influences, the Kris Van Assche collection also spanned popular high-top sneakers and backpacks, the latter in collaboration with Eastpak.
A graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Van Assche moved to Paris in 1998 and worked under Slimane at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Homme and then Dior Homme.
In an interview last year as Dior celebrated its 70th anniversary and Van Assche a decade at the head of the brand, he said he evolved Slimane’s look “into a much cooler, more democratic and sporty” direction.
Closing his own label freed him to inject more of his personal affinity with streetwear into the Dior esthetic, bringing back a sense of youthful energy with show sets including a skatepark and a funfair.
Musing on his tenure at the brand last year, Van Assche said: “Sometimes people want to put the house of Dior and menswear at Dior in a box. Is it supposed to be just luxury, so it should be showing just impeccable suits? Or is it supposed to be this young, underground brand that I inherited 10 years ago with only fashion kids? And I always refused to choose. I think we should definitely enjoy being both.”