Saturday, 19 November 2011


Everyone who is following my blog knows that one of my most highly admired designers is Jan- Jan Van Essche. His approach to men's fashion is so unique and wearable that I really think he belongs into fashion's pantheon next to Raf Simons, Damir Doma, Kris Van Assche, Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester
He is an innovator and revolutionary. Jan- Jan Van Essche's approach is taking it deliberately slow, when the fashion world is preparing to speed up even more. He is aware of  time  becoming one of  the most luxurious items of them all. His design philosophy is that there are no seasons. He releases one collection a year and his items are meant to be worn layered depending on the time of the year and mixed with with other brands and items you already have in your wardrobe. 
His clothes are produced locally which means they bring support to companies within Belgium and help to keep up the long and successful history of Belgium's fabric manufacturing past. But in the end it is his pure and urbane designs which won me over completely. 
I have not seen such strong minimalist designs which despite their simple aesthetic, create such strong feelings of beauty and transcendence since Helmut Lang 1990's heydays. 
Owing a piece of Jan-Jan Van Essche's collection is like owing a wonderful crafted piece of native art- simple yet impressive! 

I had the chance to talk to Jan- Jan about him and his brand. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did since his talk is as insightful and interesting as his designs. 

Jan- Jan Van Essche in his Antwerp design studio 

The Fashion Philosopher (FP): Hi Jan-Jan. Firstly, I have been very exited about your collaboration with the Atelier Solarshop project which I already talked about in a post in September. And I am even more excited about the news that us Londoners will finally get our hands on your brand in Hostem beginning of next year (February 2012)  which for me is just so brilliant, eventually I can touch and see your clothes in real.

Jan-Jan Van Essche (JJVE): I'm very excited about the Hostem store too, I am really happy about the fact my collection will be available there. Wonder how you will like it when you really see it...

FP: I' m sure I will love it even more! So let’s start with our little chat. What was the reason for you to go into fashion and start your own label?

JJVE: I don't really know why I wanted to go into fashion but ever since I can remember designing clothes was what I wanted to do. Having my own collection, to build a world and a message of my own.

FP: Have you ever thought first to work for one of the big fashion company?

JJVE: I did think about it during my studies at the academy. It seemed like the best way to learn more about the profession and what it really involves having your own collection. And I still believe such experiences can be a great learning opportunity.
It just didn't work out for me like that. Maybe for the better, maybe I wouldn't have started my own collection... Or later, or in a different form... who knows?

FP: I know you have been travelling a lot. Why do you choose these really unusual names for your collections (Jan-Jan’s first collection was called YUKKURI which means ‘ taking it easy’ in Japanese and your 2011 collection ist called SATTA AMASSAGANA which translates into ‘give tanks’ in Amheric)?


JJVE: Choosing those names happens very intuitively. Actually they aren't such unusual words to me. They are words I am familiar with and that presented themselves as titles for my collections.
Yukkuri was a word that lingered in my head for a really long time, like a mantra. I picked it up from a Tricky song, and it got stuck... When later I learned what it meant (slowly, taking it easy,...) I kind of knew why it stuck to my mind... It translated the feeling I wanted to express with my collection, and the message that I wanted to get across: That even fashion and clothes can express the feeling of taking the time to do what you love to do. And to do so in a more profound way then we are mostly aloud to these days. Letting ideas ripe, enjoying the moment, being aware of what is happening now.
Satta Amassagana is a roots reggae anthem (1976) by the legendary vocal trio “The Abysinians”. Roots reggae music has always been a great inspiration to me and I wanted to honour this by naming my second collection after one of its cornerstone songs. Also I wanted to express the fact that I am very grateful that I can do what I love to do most, and give thanks to those who are making it possible for me. The people guiding me, helping me or inspiring me.

FP:Where do you usually take your inspiration from for the collections? Is there a common thread going through the collections since the pieces are designed to compliment each other and add to already bough items?

JJVE: Life itself is an inspiration. Music, people I meet, things I read, all of this can trigger new ideas. I get a lot of my inspiration from images I collect from all kind of places, books, internet, news papers,... And I tend to keep these images close to me for a long time. They can be an inspiration for several years. I don't look for new inspiration for every collection, it's more of a constant evolution. And also my basic approach to designing doesn't change from collection to collection. That's also why I think all my work is complimentary.

FP: Not only is the way you call your collections unusual, the way you approach production and sales works very differently from a normal fashion label. Please can you explain what makes your approach so special? This definitely makes it not very easy for a new and up-and-coming label?

JJVE: I do one collection a year that contains both winter and summer items. So you can wear the same clothes trough out the year, layering your silhouette up and down, according to the weather or the occasion. Most of my designs also only exist in one size that should fit lots of different people, big or small, male or female...
I also pre-produce the collection before the moment it is presented, that means the stock is predetermined and limited, with all items individually numbered and retailers have to order 'off the shelf'.
This system has its difficulties, especially because people, me included, have to get used to it. But it also has big advantages. I can concentrate on one collection at a time, I can manage my investment better, there is more control on the growth of the company, ... It has allowed me to build up the collection in a quite steady way, learning as it grows.

FP: How are buyers and costumers reacting to your approach of selling you collections this way?

JJVE: The reactions so far have been quite positive, as well from the buyers as from private costumers. But I guess you better ask them.

FP: Can you tell us a bit about the production process behind your label? Are you also trying to stick to a more environmentally friendly and humane approach in producing your collections?

JJVE: Until now all of my production is done in Belgium and I would love to keep it that way. Or at least keep it as local as possible. For environmental, ethical and humane reasons, but also for practical reasons: it's easier to check in on the production when it is done locally.
Also because it would be such a shame if all of our Belgian industrial textile heritage and knowledge would totally disappear, as is the case at the moment.

FP: I think I called your approach to designing and selling your collection as ‘ the new simplicity’. This is the way I conceive your brand - as ‘simple’,‘quiet’ and ‘new urbane’.  There is an almost political awareness going into your work which opposes our mass production and shockingly quick turnover times in fashion. But the way you limit your pieces in a collection and through just doing one collection a year, makes your clothes very luxurious and expensive. They are actually just for a very small number of people. What do you think about this and would you like to change this ‘luxurious exclusivity’?

JJVE: It's true that my clothes are produced in very small quantities and not widely available, but that is more of a consequence of how I work, not my aim. I would like it to be more available but not against all cost. I don't think the world needs another mass brand.
And the fact that even in this very small group of people that are my clients, there is a great variety of people, which is a good sign to me.


FP: I can imagine it is difficult to find the middle?

JJVE: Finding balance is always hard, especially when there are so many external factors involved. The way my collection is perceived is out of my control.

FP: So how would you describe the ‘ JAN-JAN VAN ESSCHE’- man?

JJVE: I guess there is more then just one Jan-Jan Van Essche-man. In fact there are also quite some women out there wearing the collection.
So far most fans of my work, men and women, are in the creative world, incorporating my pieces into their own personal wardrobes and creating their own personal style which is very inspiring.
As comfort is very important to me, I guess this is also a reason why they are buying my pieces. I also don’t think my clients are necessarily trend followers but more interested in simple forms with a timeless character.

FP: What is up next for your brand?

JJVE: Next up is COLLECTION#3… I'm right in the middle of the designing process. So stay tuned!

FP: I would love your brand to collaborate with other artists or designers. Who would you love to work with and why?

JJVE: By working with Atelier Solarshop I’ve seen how inspiring and energising collaborations with other creative minds can be. But for the collection I haven’t done this yet. Everything at its time I guess. I would love to involve other people but the right opportunity hasn’t presented itself so far.

FP: Thanks a lot Jan- Jan for taking the time to answer these questions. As you know I really love your work and I wish you all the best for you and your brand. I will keep in touch and inform my readers about how you are progressing.

JJVE: Thank you, the support and understanding really means a lot.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011


Times are changing for the Fashion Philosopher. I have started my work as Fashion Editor at Glassworks- Studios which I enjoy immensely ( have a look at to get an impression of me editing) The only problem is, as usual in the creative fashion world, that my financial situation has not changed. The ones who follow my blog a little know that I sold all my clothes to support my ' life of leisure' ( I disguised the sell out of my clothes as a philosophical question but in the end I needed some butter on the toast and electricity for the toast!) and now I am faced with the one big, outrages problem: I have nothing to wear.
As a Philosopher of Fashion I asked my self once again the question of the moment: how can accessories my ( what shall I call it?) my minimalistic(!?) male(!?) wardrobe with little means but yet with loads of creative inpact? or put in other words: What choices does the modern ( broke) gentleman has to bring a little bit excitement to a reduced sartorial state of wardrobe misery?

As 'godess Fate' is being good to me right now I received an mail from the new e-retailer introducing a new brand of neck wear accessories for the man about town which I immediately fell in love with ( and not only because of the really affordable prices...) the New York brand STNTN.

STNTN is a neck wear line created by husband and wife, Stanton and Rubi Jones. STNTN's debut collection is inspired by looks worn in the late 19th and early 20's centuries that they found while browsing the New York Public Library's photo archives.

Fashion illustrations 1890-1910

What I love about the product is not only of course, the brilliant idea to re- produce Edwardian neck wear for the modern day trendsetter but also every piece is crafted in New York from US-made organic fabrics and named of the year of that the inspiration photo was taken.
1919 Black 

1897 Black 
1897 Grey 

1910 White 
This is exactly what my wardrobe is screaming for! I have a couple of simple shirts left and STNTN's brilliantly uber-cool and yet traditionally sophisticated neck wear is what I need to subtly tranform them into a fashion statement. Wear it with shirt and jeans for a dressed down look or with a black suit for a more dandified look. With starting prices from around £ 36, it is a brilliant alternative to the more pricey neck wear designer brands like Marwood.

STNTN shows that innovation and tradition can create new and interesting products which can also support businesses locally.

STNTN is stocked at Pictures and inspiration for blog text taken from

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sunday, 18 September 2011


As you can see from my photos I'm letting my hair grow. I think I might even bleach them. The first time in years I'll use colour on my hair. This will be my new look- we welcome Grunge back, don't we?


Yes, at the moment everything goes very quickly. Last week I was still living in my little dream world ( I managed to watch all 5 seasons from ' Six feet under' in a week!!) and now I have the work placement as Fashion Editor at glassworks-studios and partied with my friend fashion stylist and journalist Christine Bierhals in Rankin's photo studio at the Dazed & Confused party. I hope it will go on like this! Have also a look at our glassworks-studios tumblr page. I' m editing the pictures right to introduce the company to our customers:

They were filming and taking pictures during the party
My friend fashion stylist Christine Bierhals
The Fashion Philosopher is being naughty!

That's embarrassing, at least it was on my foot and did not hang out the back of my trousers. Actually I haven't been to the toilet at this time of the party. Ha hiii Ha ha ha!

Part of the wall's in Rankin's studio were used a gallery space for up-and -coming photographers


Friday, 16 September 2011


London Fashion Week SS12 has started and I will go to the Dazed & Confused party tonight in Rankin's studio in Kentishtown. I just waited for 15 years to go to this party and I am more than excited. I will have my photo camera with me and will post the photos.

Friday, 2 September 2011


As a platform for young designers and artists Atelier Solarshop presents the third edition of the "POP-UP" project. 
A mix of playful yet modern esthetic objects and items will fill up the space of Atelier Solarshop creating a harmonic atmosphere where young ideas stand out.
"POP-UP"= a (con)temporary shop of 5 weeks with a fine and exciting selection of works by international young talents in the arts, fashion and design. 
A showroom exhibition where private clients can come to admire and order these exclusive, limited or numbered works.
POP-UP 2011 launches on September 1st and ends on October 8th.


Atelier Solarshop
Dambruggestraat 48
2060 Antwerpen

Some interior shots: 


And now some of the exciting new designers and artists showcased and sold ( yes, we should also buy the stuff to support the young talent!)

artist KATI HECK

My favourite:!! !!

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Wool turn-up beanie and fake leather biker jacket ( both from the good old flea market) 

In the last few month, I discussed with a lot of friends and especially with fellow fashion blogger Brandon from Feigned Perfection, how we are consuming fashion- it's positive and negatives effects. I have a huge wardrobe with clothes, Helmut Lang vintage pieces, collection of shawls and shoes ( my favourite a pair of Gladiator sandals, bought 15 years ago from a Belgium designer. I loved them because they were so unusual, they looked like from a film set, and then 2 years ago, the fashion fad for the Gladiator sandals set in and now I can not see them anymore since everyone is wearing Roman Gladiator sandals!) and loads of jackets.. jewels, hats.... !!!
Actually suddenly about a month ago I was thinking, what would a fashion addict like I do if I start selling off all my clothes and live just with a small stable of let's say 10 pieces and a couple of shoes. What would I use to establish my individuality? Would I feel released or robbed? Free or boring. How much security does a collected wardrobe of 200 pieces of clothing give me? Would I dare to do it?
Actually I dared, I have been selling off all my clothes. Honestly 70% of my clothes went meanwhile and the last pieces will go too within the next weeks.
Clothes I cherished for years and years like a cream- coloured Joe Casely- Hayford jacket, I bought 1999 as I moved to London, since he was my favourite designer back than, or the above mentioned sandals. OK, my pair of Helmut Lang shoes, my first buy on my student credit card- I kept. I just can not sell them. But I reduced my wardrobe of as said 200 pieces to about 15 pieces. Mainly 2 pair of jeans, simple t-shirts. 4 pairs of shoes, 2 jackets and 3 jumpers. OK, I kept my hats and my shawls.

How do I feel? I feel good actually. I thought I would be much more anxious and regretful but- no. I do feel free somehow. I feel clean and actually more avant-garde than with all my clothes and choices before. I feel ready for new experiences and free to experiment with my style. I would also say I feel re-newed. I can start fresh again to collect or not collect. No, 20 years old pieces reminding my of the past- actually I do not think I want that? I am not an museum yet. My style belongs to the future not the past. I would say this kind of re-birth I will practice from now on every 10 years till the day I die.

Now, how do I express myself now for the time being? Just see below, what I look like at the moment! I decided to use my hair, some accessories  and my facial expression to ' style ' myself from now on! But to be honest even without my ' armour ' of clothes I still love fashion without limits. Not only the trends and the avant-garde, not also the art in fashion, fashion magazines, fashion books, fashion designers.... yes, once a fashion fanatic- always a fashion fanatic.

I love you all my friends! Raj, The Fashion Philosopher
Glasses from ASOS and necklace from India 

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


I just received some pics of Jan- Jan Van Essche's showroom in Paris for the presentation of SATTA AMASSAGANA. Unfortunately, I could not go but I will soon post an interview with Jan- Jan about his work.

Monday, 13 June 2011


Actually it is ridiculous- but fashion is and must be ridiculous to a certain extent. Summer has not really started and I am already can not wait for winter. Maybe there are just more possibilities in men fashion during winter times? Summer is usually just a t-shirt and a short and some sandals. And I hardly can wear my favourite accessory- the hat. This time round I'm especially fascinated by Dior Homme AW11 shows. I'm crazy about their Amish hats. The clothes are typically VanAssche- simple-elegant and monochrome but always with an interesting twist. This time round he seduces us with religion- sort of. The trilby is around for quite a while now but somehow I started craving for something more of a 'statement hat' and found the fedora.

The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play, Fedora written for Sarah Bernhardt. Bernhardt plays Princess Fedora, the heroine in the pa lay wore a hat similar to what is now considered a fedora. The fedora became a female fashion which lasted into the early part of the 20th century. When the fedora became a male fashion item, it was popular in cities for its stylishness but also for its practicality, its ability to protect the wearer's head from the wind and weather.
The poet Walt Whitman with a fedora style hat in the 19th century 

Since the early part of the 20th century, many Orthodox Jews have worn black fedoras and continue to this day. The hat is also often associated with Prohibition, Great Depression-era gangsters and the detectives. Popular stars in the 1950 like Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra wore fedoras. And of course in Hollywood movies of the 1940's, characters often wore fedoras together with a trench coat. Think of Humphrey Bogart in the famous film ' Casablanca'.  

The Beatles cover shoot for the album ' Hey Jude' sporting both an Amish style and fedora style hat in the late 1960's
During the 1970's the fedora became an unpopular style worn only by older man. But the 1980's saw a revival by singers like Micheal Jackson. In the 2000's trilby, similar to the fedora just with a narrow brim, because of it vintage appeal came into fashion again and now we have Dior picking up again on the broader brim version of the fedora- Amish hat for it's AW11 collection.

All  pictures above Dior Homme AW11 
The broad brim gives the look something very aristocratic and elegant. It is a great alternative for the a bit ' last season' trilby and to the comfy woolen beanie hat. This style is something for the more advanced and brave fashionisto with a artistic tendency. I hope you like my new obsession. I will definitely sport either a fedora or an Amish hat this winter for sure. So let the snow drops fall. My hat and my shoulders will stay dry! 
Enjoy the summer- The Fashion Philosopher