Dutch footwear designer
Born: circa 1945. Family: Married to Tonny Jansen. Career: Worked originally under the Jeannot label; became known for his original and often extreme footwear designs, 1960s; eventually designed under his own label; opened first shop in Amsterdam, 1968; subsequent boutiques opened in Heusden and Antwerpt; sold North American licensing for footwear to Meno Vos and Thoan Kho; opened first U.S. store near San Francisco, 2000.
De Schoenen van Jan Jansen 1964-1974, [exhibition catalogue], Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1974.
McDowell, Colin, Shoes, Fashion and Fantasy, London, 1989.
Anniss, Elisa, "Going Dutch: Avant-Garde Footwear Artistry Blooms in the Netherlands, in Footwear News, 7 August 1995.
"Hide & Seek," in Footwear News, 10 May 1999.
Saeks, Diane Dorrans, "Go Dutch: The Netherlands Meets Northern California with Jan Jansen's First U.S. Footwear Boutique," in Footwear News, 4 December 2000.
Little known to the public but highly regarded by fellow professionals, Jan Jansen, the Dutch shoe designer, is one of the most inventive and original translators in his chosen field. Unlike designers who produce cosmetic updates of existing styles, Jansen conceives the item in a truly unique and conceptual way. An original and gifted man, his work inspires great admiration from those who recognize his quite individual style. His footwear is different, often extreme, unexpected with verve and daring. It can visually arrest you in a way the work of few other shoe designers can—and seems to push the boundaries of one's expectations of what a shoe should be.
Jansen worked originally under the Jeannot label, pouring out thousands of highly successful designs. His ability to translate his prototypes into commercially acceptable shoes is legendary. He kept many footwear retailers and factories on their feet through very tough economic times, despite the fact that his designs were widely copied and infiltrated lesser stores. He soon began, anonymously, to design for well-known companies like Charles Jourdan. When he finally decided to dedicate himself to his own line, his took his original wares to European trade fairs. When his footwear was eagerly anticipated by a growing number of devotees, the designer opened a tiny shop in Amsterdam in 1968. Two subsequent shops, in Heusden and Antwerpt, followed.
Liberated in his thinking, and a true entertainer, Jansen's ideas are visually stunning at times, and quite beautiful. His great affection for suede, whether of the finest quality or rougher and more casual, and his dramatic use of color have ensured that brilliant red, peacock blue, saffron yellow, or even black would be an integral part of each season's handwriting. No matter how extreme, the shoes are always wearable, but only by a courageous client. Jansen's creations are seldom understated in shape, and he has used unusual textures and modern materials (plexiglass, bamboo, cork, etc.) to augment his designs. His skills cover a wide range of disciplines; he still handcrafts his lasts and is able to translate his many inventive styles for quantity production to satisfy the mass market. Jansen easily stands alongside the familiar and respected names in the trade.
By the 1990s the Dutch had moved into the realm of fashion influence with a number of fashion forward designers. Jansen, Dries van Noten, and the design team of Viktor & Rolf brought mounting recognition to the Netherlands for their original fashion interpretations. As Elisa Anniss, writing for Footwear News (7 August 1995) explained, "In-the-know buyers were discovering that Holland offered some interesting looks, such as the sculptural designs by eclectic Dutch designer Jan Jansen, and an abundance of shoes that manage to fuse comfort features and athletic details with an edgy fashion sensibility."
In the 21st century, Jansen brought his one-of-kind creations to America, opening his fourth boutique (and first in the U.S.) in Mill Valley, California. Near San Francisco, the eponymously named store was made possible by a Dutch couple, Meno Vos and Thoan Kho, who also acquired the licensing rights to manufacture and distribute Jansen's footwear in North America. Vos is a longtime Jansen fan, having fell in love with the designer's shoes back in the early 1980s. The new Mill Valley store was a dream come true for Jansen, as well as Vos and Kho.
"Jan Jansen is a rare person in the shoe business," Vos told Footwear News (4 December 2000), "He works like an artist, designs every piece in his line, and doesn't follow fashions or care what other shoe design companies are producing. His shoe collections have a sense of humor and a carefree sense of style. And Jansen is one of the few true designers with enough diversity and creativity to fill a whole shop." For his part, Jansen simply says, "I want to make feet feel at home," something he has been doing with fantastically original style for well over three decades.