In this year’s Spring/Summer season of the V.O.F JOURNAL, we were kindly invited to interview the designer. ( JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE 2022S/S SPECIAL INTERVIEW―――The thoughts and brand philosophy behind the “HANDWOVEN series”)

For the following autumn/winter season, we also made an appointment with designer; Jan Jan Van Essche and held an interview with him.

We asked him about the “DENIM series”, which appeared twice consecutively with COLLECTION 12 “CYCLE” and PROJECT 10 “A HORIZON”.

About the fabrics used, the ‘denim jackets’ and ‘biker’s jackets’ used as outerwear, and the designer’s own favourite pieces…

This interview is not only for denim lovers and fans of JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE, but also for those who have recently become interested in denim but haven’t found the “This is it!”

About the fabrics in the DENIM series—— “Denim to me is like a staple thing in a wardrobe”.

__Where are the fabrics used in the “DENIM series” woven?

Jan Jan Van Essche (hereinafter, referred to as “Jan Jan”):This fabric is from Ibara, Okayama.

__Ibara-City is the place in Japan where denim is famous, especially known as “The holy place of DENIM”.

Cotton cultivation has flourished here since the middle of the Edo period, and denim fabric called “White-back (Urajiro in Japanese)” was already being produced in the Meiji and Taisho periods.

The denim in Ibara-City is famous for its selvedge denim, which is woven on old looms (shuttle looms) that have been used since that time. Is the fabric used for the “DENIM series” also woven on this shuttle loom?

Jan Jan:Yes, it is woven on a traditional loom that was made at the time of the First Industrial Revolution.

The fabric woven on these looms is narrower than fabric woven on new looms due to the construction of the machine. I take this into consideration when creating the patterns.

__ Do you use special patterns only for the “DENIM series”?

Jan Jan:No, the patterns I made can be used for both full width and narrow textile, as the patterns can be adapted to the width of the textile by simply changing the patterns arrangement.

However, the amount of fabric used per meter is greater for narrower widths (such as denim woven on a shuttle loom), allowing for more lean production.

__For COLLECTION 12 “CYCLE”, Aizome denim was used, and Sumizome denim was made for PROJECT 10 “A HORIZON”.

Both Aizome and Sumizome require a great deal of time and effort. What are the reasons for not using general indigo dyes or sulphide dyes?

Jan Jan:I don’t refuse to work with non-natural dyes, but where I can, if the option is there I prefer working with natural dyes.

And especially in denim. The fact that these fabrics are natural craft dyes, make the product so much more unique and elevated.

Denim is mostly mass produced and quite common product. But making garments out of a naturally dyed, shuttle loom woven denim fabric results in a very special product.

The tones of the colours have a dept and richness, which are not achievable with chemical dyes. And I think one can really feel the energy of the handwork that went into this product.

In fact, the dyeing processes for Aizome and Sumizome are completely different. The way the dyestuff attaches to the fibers is different, and the way it behaves when exposed to sunlight, to wear and tear and to washing are very different too.

So, the same model in the same “DENIM series” will look and age differently depending on whether Aizome or Sumizome fabric is used.

Why “denim jackets” and “biker’s jackets”?

__The same model of TROUSERS was used for S/S and A/W, but the JACKET has a different shape – a classic denim jacket for S/S and a biker’s jacket for A/W. Why did you choose these two shapes?

Jan Jan:The colours of the textile directed me in these design processes.

A blue Ai denim really asked for my take on a more classic denim jacket, where the grey Sumi denim really lent itself to a rougher look, so a biker jacket felt really appropriate.

__I see, the indigo blue certainly reminds me of indigo denim in vintage wear, while the sumi grey reminds me of the black leather of a biker’s jacket.

By the way, the only new design in the PROJECT#10 A HORIZON “DENIM series” was the “JACKET#49” biker’s jacket. What do you find ‘interesting’ about this model?

Jan Jan:One of the interesting aspects of this work is its graphic structure.

The body of JACKET #49 is made in a rectangular pattern.

The straight lines that make up the rectangle intersect at right angles, but the fabric of “JACKET #49” is joined to them by running the placket (the part that opens and closes with the buttons) in a diagonal direction.

By drawing diagonals in a shape composed of right angles, it is made up as “a garment” …This is what makes “JACKET#49” so interesting.

__It’s a beautiful story that gives me a sense of the aesthetics that mathematicians have. It makes me would like to take a closer look at “JACKET #49” again.

What is Jan Van Essche’s favourite model? —— “My personal favourite is the TROUSERS #67.”

__Lastly, I would like to ask you what you ‘like’ about the “DENIM series” from some perspectives.

First of all, what do you like about the fabric? What attracted you to this denim enough to use it for 2 seasons?

Jan Jan:Because the denims we used are of the most beautiful I ever saw and felt.

I loved it and wear it a lot. Denim to me is like a staple thing in a wardrobe.

Its specific characteristics are so unique and can be worn in so many different ways, translating a wide range of expressions.

It’s solid but also soft, it’s delicate and rough, it’s a rich and versatile material to work with. And it carries a whole lot of history with it.

In particular, the fabrics of the “DENIM series” are woven on shuttle looms and have a texture that moves the spectator and wearer emotionally, while the colours of the natural dyes are rich and irreplaceable.

Also, denim is a material that originally develops a unique texture as it gradually fades and decolours. The denim used in the “DENIM series” expresses these characteristics at a higher level.

That’s why I am attracted to this fabric.

__Then, please share with us your ‘favourite part’ about the model. What is your favourite model?

JJan Jan:My personal favorite is the TROUSERS#67, which I call “the workwear denim”.

wear both the Aizome and the Sumi denim version almost every day since a year now. I love the wide fit and big pocket that give it this workwear appeal, the thick yet soft denim just makes them extra comfortable.

__How do you wear your TROUSERS#67? Please tell us about your favourite combinations.

Jan Jan:Lately I wear it mostly with the SHIRTS#89(Regular collar shirt with long sleeves).If you think about PROJECT 10 “A HORIZON”, it also goes really beautifully with striped knitwear.

The nicest thing about denim to me is, it almost doesn’t matter what you wear it with, it goes with so much. Denim for me is the kind of item I wear when I don’t want to think too much about what to wear, a reliable thing to fall back on too.

You can turn it formal combined with a shirt or very relaxed if you wear it with a tunic.I hope that the wearer could enjoy the freedom to wear it without thinking too much about it.

__Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you about the “DENIM series” and of course about how to love JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE’s work even more.

Thank you again for your precious time. We are looking forward to the future creations of JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE.

Clothing:Jan-Jan Van Essche – @janjanvanessche
Shoes:Petrosolaum – @petrosolaum

・The first shipment of Taiga Takahashi 2022-23A/W COLLECTION arrives at CONTEXT, Tokyo.
・Peng Tai 2022-23A/W COLLECTION has arrived at Kyoto Otsukei.
・ZIGGY CHEN 2022-23A/W COLLECTION’s first shipment arrives at Otsukei, Kyoto.
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interviewee/Jan Jan Van Essche(Jan Jan Van Essche, Designer)
interviewer/Naoto Suzuki(Writer)
Translation/Karina Ito (CONTEXT TOKYO staff)