Forget that go-anywhere leather biker jacket or those loveworn Levi’s still putting in a shift: the apron is the hardest-working item in any wardrobe. After all, it’s been in service since the 13th century, protecting the clothing of housewives, tradesmen, and artisans from cooking spillages, cement dust, and shoe polish alike. In that time, it’s evolved: like all items with an ostensibly protective purpose, aprons have a kinky side, with the eroticized French maid in her white doily-style pinny now an instantly recognizable fetish. There’s a reason aprons turn up repeatedly in collections by Miuccia Prada.
Aprons are Jules ten Velde’s favorite garment. “So innocent, so domestic. They make me think of cooking, working in the garden, wholesome activities that I really like,” says the 28-year-old Dutch designer, a graduate of the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, whose impish smile belies his professed shyness. A spotlessly white, frill-trimmed cotton apron appears in the debut collection for the eponymous Jules ten Velde line, which will go on sale exclusively at Comme des Garçons’s Aoyama flagship store in Tokyo on March 18. The capsule was inspired by his long love affair with Regency England, “and the sort of person I dream to be, wafting around in fields and palaces,” he says. “I find the modern world very difficult sometimes. This is a place where I can indulge my nostalgia and romance.”
Born of a series of experiments that began while observing the stay-at-home order in Amsterdam during the pandemic, the collection mainly comprises volume-centric dresses alongside bow-tied shirts, plus a wafty skirt and a cute sleeveless top. Every piece is white, largely because Ten Velde found he always preferred his preparatory white toile over the final garment. “Then of course, white symbolizes a sort of innocence. If I think of every romantic archetype of a woman—a bride, a debutante—I think of a white dress,” he says. The designs have appropriately literary names familiar to Austen and Brontë fans: a brocade ballgown is named Linton “after the fancy family in Wuthering Heights,” a puffy shouldered, A-line taffeta dress is known as the “Bovary” after Flaubert’s flouncing heroine.