Francon featured in Vogue,
- May 21

Fashion and architecture come together in Francon, the new Dutch fashion label founded by art director May Kaan and her husband, architect Kees Kaan.

What is it like to work together as lovers?
‘We have previously joined forces for a real estate project, but this is the first time that we have set up a company together. I started in the fashion world at, among others, Saint Laurent in London and Kees has been working for years as a professor of architecture at TU Delft and has his own office KAAN Architecten. Kees is my sounding board, he is very strong conceptually and strategically. We live in Rotterdam, where I come from. The architectural city of Rotterdam has a strong design scene, but large fashion houses are still lacking. We approach fashion from an architectural point of view, that's where it all started.’

How does that translate into your collections?
‘We have devised several editions (small collections) based on housing archetypes. There are now five: Lake House, Tower, Cabin, Chalet and Palazzo. We use a method from architecture for the design. Looking at the context; who will use it and for what purpose, how does it relate to the environment? Fashion viewed from context and interaction, not from seasons and trends. That's how we came up with narratives. For example, in a Lake House you are free, relaxed, surrounded by friends and family. You want to feel comfortable there, but you are also a bit showing-off. The Tower is more about the versatility of city life.”

How does that work if the lockdown lasts longer?
“We started Francon during the first lockdown. It has confirmed our hunch about the prevailing fashion cycle: why buy something new every season? And why does something go out of fashion at all? That no longer fits these times and it is not sustainable at all. Our collections are therefore seasonless and more focused on where you are at a certain moment. The edition for the Lake House has a pajama-like feel, but more luxurious. In the woods (Cabin) you may wear the same garment for three days in a row, your clothes must be easy to wash and you probably need more layers. And who knows, you might be out and about in the city (Tower) from morning to evening, quickly switching accessories for dinner. All those individual pieces of clothing together ultimately form an oeuvre, a collection of styles.’

Lake House is inspired by a house that you started building in Zeeland two years ago.
"I was completely immersed in the process and that's when the idea for Francon came up. For the house we use wood and natural stone. I wondered: which fabrics and materials would you like to feel on your body? With sunny weather we spend a lot of time on the water. That is why we have also developed a dress in a smooth swimsuit fabric with a split, intended for sailing or surfing. The low back of the dress refers to swimwear.”

Do you have favorite items of clothing?
"Hard to choose. In any case, I named them after well-known icons, such as Tilda Swinton or women from my own circle of family and friends. Like a dress named after my sister-in-law Saskia (Noor van Imhoff, artist). On the side is a row of buttons that runs from the ribcage all the way to the bottom hem. Wear it closed as a dress, or open with pants underneath and a patch of bare skin at the midriff. I think that's a beautiful silhouette. I envision it as a typical Lake House item at sunset.”

Is Francon made in Europe?
“Yes, we consciously keep everything as close to home as possible. This is how you maintain local craftsmanship and that is important to us. In addition, Fira (Rietveld, head of design) and I looked at our own heritage. For example, we delved into various museums and costume archives in Zeeland. The Zeeland button originally dates from eighteenth-century men's fashion, worn as a status symbol. It was only much later that women started wearing the button as jewelry. Furthermore, the knitting techniques and motifs of the Zeeland fisherman's sweater also differ per region. A bit sinister, but if a fisherman washed ashore, they knew from his sweater where he came from. Influences of signature knit and smocking are reflected in our knitwear designs and, for example, a linen tunic dress with smocked sleeves. We even developed a Zeeland button using a 3D printer from Kees's office. Here, in the Netherlands, is so much beauty that we hardly know about. With Francon we want to shed light on that in a modern, fresh way.”

This article was translated from Dutch.

Written by Kaira van Wijk

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