JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE 2022S/S SPECIAL INTERVIEW – The thoughts and brand philosophy behind the “HANDWOVEN series”

JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE’s 2022S/S COLLECTION “CYCLE”, which attempts to express “healing” and ” restarting” through gaements (for a discussion of the collection, please see this JOURNAL *only japanese).

Many customers have already shared their feelings about JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE’s creations this season, such as the choice of vital colors, including POPPY RED, and fabrics with a touch that heals both the skin and the soul, such as PANCAKE COTTON JOURSEY.

Among these, the most stand-out pieces are the “HANDWOVEN series”, literally made of hand-woven fabrics (“KIMONO#11” DARK VARIANT and LIGHT VARIANT).

The fabric for this work was actually woven by Lamine Diouf, a friend of Jan Jan Van Essche and also his team member.

The material is delicate, light and absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, naturally requiring a great deal of time and effort to produce.

The price of the “HANDWOVEN series” is set so that the profit margin for the store and the brand is lower than for other items in the collection.

This is an effort to make the prices as affordable as possible to as many people as possible through cooperation between retailers and the brand, while at the same time paying fair rewards to the craftsman, Mr. Lamine.

Why does JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE go to such great lengths to use Lamine’s fabrics?

This time, we contacted the designer Jan Jan Van Essche directly and asked him to give us a special interview about his encounter and relationship with Lamine, the process of creating his work, as well as the thoughts and philosophy he and his design team expressed in the “HANDWOVEN series”.

“From the day he started weaving, it was clear that he had a natural talent.” about the weavers of the HANDWOVEN series.

Lamine Diouf, weaver of the HANDWOVEN series.
photo by Wannes Cree

__ First of all, please tell us about the makers of these fabrics.

Jan Jan Van Essche: The maker of all the hand-woven fabrics used in our collections is Lamine Diouf, our dear friend and in many ways our muse* and a member of our team.

*A model for inspiration or a model who represents the brand.

___How did Lamine start working with hand-woven fabrics?

Jan Jan: He is originally a friend of ours. After he came to Antwerp in the winter of 2013, he started visiting our studio frequently.

We had a small loom in our studio, and he asked if he could try weaving on it, so we showed him how to use it.

That was the first time for him to try the loom, but from the day he started weaving, it was clear that he had a natural talent for it.

At the time we were working on PROJECT#2 – REDEEM for the 2014A/W season, and he has been a member of our team ever since the SAKIORI fabric we used that season.

___So, he has been self-study in his technique, without any training from anyone?

Vest made of rope-weaving fabric, woven and modeled by Mr. Lamine. 
photo by Pietro Celestina

Jan Jan: Exactly. I only knew a little about loom settings and weaving at the time, but I studied with him through trial and error until we got a satisfactory result.

The first piece of work was a SAKIORI weaving in PROJECT#2, the next was a rope weaving in PROJECT#3, which was the main focus. is now completely more knowledgeable about weaving techniques and looms than I am.

_ Did you meet Lamine in Antwerp in 2013?

Jan Jan: No. I met him when I travelled to Senegal and Mali (both African countries) in 2006. I was looking for a place to stay in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and ended up staying with him and his family, who soon became a friend, like brothers.

So when he moved to Antwerp in 2013, we naturally kept in touch and he became part of our team.

He did various jobs for us, including modelling and working as a showroom staff member for Paris Fashion Week, and eventually became a hand weaver.

____It’s a very heart-warming story. What attracted you to His work and why did you decide to incorporate it into the JJVE collection?

Jan Jan: That’s a difficult question. …… Because it was so natural, we all felt a special bond, a connection, with him ever since we became friends on the day we first met in 2006.

This bond became stronger when he came to live in Antwerp and we got to know each other and work together on the artistic side. So there was no question of incorporating his work into our collection.

Besides, I always dreamt of bringing crafts like hand weaving into the team, so I was excited to work with the talented Lamine.

“The pieces in the series are born out of a dialogue with him. ” about the design of the HANDWOVEN series.


__ Are all items designed by the JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE design team? Or does it include ideas from Lamine?

Jan Jan: The design comes from a dialogue with him. I design all the items, especially the shapes, but the fabric designs are inspired by Lamine.

He does a lot of testing and experimenting, which is often where new ideas come from.

I also share with him the ideas and images that inspire me, and we decide what fabrics to make for the next collection together.

Since he is both a craftsman and a talented artist, he has a great ability to read the intentions underlying ideas and emotions, and is very good at translating them into handwoven fabrics in a beautiful way.

By the way, he is also a poet. The narration in the presentation film for PROJECT#10 – A HORIZON for the upcoming 2022A/W season is Lamine reading extracts from a poem he wrote for this collection.

__ What do you think is the appeal of the Lamine’s fabrics?

Jan Jan: I consider hand-woven fabrics to be the essence of luxury and so precious.

You may feel the soul in them, the time, energy and dedication that go into every single piece is of a value that can not be replaced.

The handwoven pieces really complete the collection image in a way other items would not be able to do. They help us tell the complete story and philosophy of the brand.

__ What do you pay attention to in order to make the most of their appeal?

Jan Jan: I always try to listen to the voice of the fabric and use it in the most respectful way. In the case of the “HANDWOVEN series”, I create the fabric in a way that does not cut it, so there is no waste.

This fabric is a precious material that has taken a lot of time and effort to produce, so it would be a shame not to show it off to its full potential.

Side seam of “KIMONO#11” DARK VARIANT. To avoid wasting fabric, the edges of the fabric are sewn together.

__ Is the reason there are no pockets on KIMONO #11 this time around to avoid cutting the fabric?

Jan Jan: We could also add pockets without cutting the fabric by using the side seams.

But we didn’t dare to do that this time. This is because the fabric of this season is very light for summer, but the lighter you make the fabric, the less strong it becomes.

If pockets were to be added, the fabric would have to be able to withstand the weight of hands and other objects being put into it, but this fabric was too thin for that. That’s why we didn’t put pockets on it.

All stitching in the work is done by hand. Patterns are also used on the sleeves that do not require cutting the fabric.

__ Do you feel that there are any difficulties in working with this fabric?

Jan Jan: It’s not difficult. Handwoven fabrics have their own characteristics, that you have to respect, but in a way that’s the case for any other material as well.

If I had to say something, I would say that handlooms are more delicate, so we have to find new constructions (designs) to deal with that.

Also, the narrow width of handloom fabric ――― it is very difficult to handweave a wide width of fabric ――― could be a disadvantage.

On the other hand, this also means, that you can weave in a perfect balance to suit the design we have in mind.

In this way, the character of a fabric can be positive or negative, depending on how you think about it.

“To sustain crafts and handcrafts for the future.” The ideas behind the “HANDWOVEN series“

__ The selling price of this series is determined by the JJVE design team and the dealer in a way that reduces the profit margin and secures a profit for the craftsman, Lamine.

I feel this is a brilliant stance, while at the same time, I think it is a way of doing things that other brands don’t often adopt. Why do you go to such lengths to support artisans?

Jan Jan: For us it is a way to sustain the craft, and the idea of handwork in general.

We have already lost so much of our collective heritage, but I feel that these pieces are one of the greatest legacies that we should pass on to the next generation.

If we apply a regular price to a handmade product, which is the result of a lot of time and effort, it would be very expensive and would not be able to be placed in a regular retail store.

Finding customers who would understand such a product would be even more difficult.

That’s why we decided to work with our dealers to lower the prices as much as possible and save the craft and handwork.

__ Are there any crafts or techniques that the JJVE design team would like to incorporate into the collection in the future?

Hand-knit knitwear from a past collection of JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE. (writer’s personal item)
The same indigo-dyed fabric
was also developed for past collections.(same as above)

Jan Jan: It’s hard to choose because I am inspired by so many crafts.

For example, I am very intrigued by basket weaving, which I hope to incorporate into my collection one day.

And lace making, a very classic Belgian craft, it would be very interesting to experiment with that, as you can imagine to make any kind of shape and pattern with that technique.

We regularly work with hand knitted pieces, crochet and hand felted or blocked millenary, to name a few and we hope to be able to keep on incorporating these and other crafts in our collections.

In past collections we have included natural hand dyed fabrics such as Aizome, kakishibu, sumi and the ancient Chinese mud silk and we would like to keep on doing this.

The Japanese way of mud dyeing doro zome also intrigues me and hope to be able to visit Amami in the near future.

_ As a big fan of JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE, I’m really looking forward to it. Is there anything you can’t say enough about the “HANDWOVEN series”?

Jan Jan: No, I think not. Thanks for your poignant questions, hope you can share this story with your community and customers.

__ In the course of the interview, I became much, much more in love with JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE.

Of course we love the “HANDWOVEN series”, but we also love the items from past seasons in our wardrobes more than ever.

Thank you for your time and cooperation this time. We look forward to more JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE creations for the future.


interviewee/Jan Jan Van Essche(designer of JAN JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE)
Interviewer/Naoto Suzuki (Writer)
Translation/Carina Ito (CONTEXT TOKYO staff)

Carate Urio Orchestra ‘Lover’.
Composed by Joachim Badenhorst
Lyrics by Erik Heestermans
From the album ‘Lover’ (KLEIN 2016)
Video by de Imagerie
starring Lamine Diouf
Joachim Badenhorst
Sam Kulik
Frantz Loriot
Pascal Niggenkemper
Brice Soniano
Sean Carpio
Nico Roig