Ilse Cornelissens of KASSL Editions explains how she and her co-founders were taken with the “democratic cut” and enduring practicality of the humble fisherman’s coat
- Who is it? Outerwear brand KASSL Editions, which focuses on one coat, based on the classic fisherman’s jacket shape, reimagined in seasonal editions
- Why do I want it? An antidote to “excess and overproduction”, KASSL’s coats and accessories are both luxurious and highly practical thanks to rigorous German manufacturing
- Where can I find it? At online retailers like Browns, Matches Fashion, and SSENSE, and in-store at a newly launched Liberty pop-up
Who is it? “You could call us more of a collective than a designer-led brand,” says Ilse Cornelissens, one of the founders of KASSL Editions. Cornelissens runs the Antwerp concept store, restaurant and apartment Graanmarkt 13 with her husband Tim van Geloven, and they dreamt up KASSL Editions after Bart Ramakers, an old friend and founder of Parrot Agency, got in touch about a coat he’d seen a woman wearing. “Bart ran into a friend in New York and she was wearing this old fisherman’s coat with this beautiful oil-coated kind of pattern,” Cornelissens tells AnOther. “He was very intrigued by the coat and started texting me some pictures, asking what I thought. And I really loved it, I loved the shape.”
Cornelissens, Van Geloven and Ramakers decided to build a brand around the fisherman’s coat, taking the classic shape and reimagining it season after season in luxurious, durable fabrics and varying cuts. Enlisting the help of another friend, the designer Camille Serra – an alumna of Joseph and Maison Margiela, and founder of Extreme Cashmere – the ‘collective’ launched KASSL Editions in 2017. “We really started from just a group of friends in the fashion field,” explains Cornelissens. “It’s about one coat, one shape, from the point of view of me as a retailer, Camille as a designer, and Bart as an agent.” Former Vogue editor Gijsje Ribbens styles KASSL’s lookbooks, photographed by Walter Pierre, expanding the collective further.
Why do I want it? Cornelissens et al agree that the appeal of a fisherman’s coat lies in its “democratic cut”, originally designed for function but universally flattering. KASSL’s expertise is balancing this practicality with luxury; rendered in high-quality Limonta fabrics, the result is covetable outerwear based on the fisherman’s shape that is sturdy, and built to last. Since its first collection – which featured a long beige trench, a high-shine cropped ‘lacquer’ black jacket and oil-coated cotton iterations, all with the fisherman’s coat’s signature sloping shoulders and metal buttons – KASSL has introduced a variation of textures and colours to its offering. Cropped shearling coats are reversible, there are longer belted waxed cotton versions with detachable hoods and contrasting sleeves, lightly padded puffer jackets, and longer woollen overcoats (some with blanket-like scarves to match). For Pre-Spring 2020, which launched in Liberty this week with a pop-up space, there are multiple ways of wearing some pieces: “I have a favourite KASSL piece from this collection, the cape coat. It’s dark green and reversible, and you can wear it in different ways,” says Cornelissens. “You can take the sleeves and wrap it round you like a shawl, and then you have a summery version to put over something.”
The brand has an office in Amsterdam, and its founders are based in both Antwerp (Cornelissens and Van Geloven) and Paris (Serra), but it is named after the German city of Kassel, where the coats and accessories are handmade by manufacturing company Josef Koch. This is where KASSL’s superior focus on function comes into play: Koch specialises in “near-indestructible” utility-wear, and manufactures uniforms for Germany’s national fire brigade and police forces. Each KASSL coat is crafted with the same focus on practicality: they are water repellant, for example, thanks to glued seams, and metal buttons will stay put longer than any sewn-on alternatives. These are coats made to last “a lifetime or longer”, not only in their style but their sturdiness too.
Cornelissens explains that KASSL’s recently launched bags were designed by accident. “Camille was playing with some of the padded fabrics and all of a sudden there was this cool padded bag, and we all immediately were like ‘wow, this is something’.” The tactile and satisfying ‘pillow’ bag – “when they’re in our store, it’s like a fluffy animal, everybody wants to touch them, and they’re kind of cosy” – is made from the same oil-coated cotton as KASSL’s coats, and launched alongside the structured and roomy ‘market’ bag in October of last year. The pillow bag is another favourite of Cornelissens’, if only for its cushioning properties: “I am kind of a chaotic person and I always put my laptop in bags where it shouldn't be – this bag is perfect because my laptop is covered! It’s practical.”