Kim Jones has been grafting the glamour and finesse of haute couture techniques and textiles onto Christian Dior menswear since he arrived at the house in 2018. The applause for that (from women, as well as men) surely has a lot to do with his upcoming and much talked-about debut at Fendi couture, his first go at a wholly female-focused collection.
All the professional confidence of that heat-generating formula—and his continuing interest in involving artists in the collection—swaggered again through his fall 2021 runway video for Dior Men. It opened with a glittering gilded embroidered coat, worn over what looked to be a military-influenced, star-buttoned suit. In fact, as Jones explained in a call from Paris, his research was based on the ceremonial tail-coated attire required by artists in France when they’re inducted into the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris—the buttons are an adaptation from a Christian Dior haute couture dress designed by Marc Bohan in the 1960s. “In fact, we’ve made several of them [the Academie’s coats] for people since I’ve been here,” he said. The crossover from male bespoke to the work of Dior’s embroidery ateliers is a little-known living tradition at this house.
Segue to Jones’s contemporary artist hook-up of the season. This time, it’s with the Scottish-born painter Peter Doig, whose roving background—an upbringing in Trinidad, study in London in the 1980s, success in the ’90s, a move to Canada—is exactly the stuff that brings out the fanboy in Jones: “Peter was at Central Saint Martins with Stephen Jones, and knew all the people I’m obsessed by—Leigh Bowery, Trojan, the London club kids at that time. Stephen introduced us. He really became part of the studio for the collection, and started making things, painting hats, and designing the set, which is based on the speaker stacks he’s collected.” Stephen Jones, Dior’s resident milliner confirms: “Yes, Peter was always hanging out with us fashion-y types at school. Then all of a sudden, unlike us, he went off and became a major international artist.”
A swift blast of art homework on Google (such is the life of a fashion reviewer these days) shows the exactitude of the Doig-Dior reference points. Where there are yellow anoraks, orange coats, and lions; where there are paint-dabby patterns on sweaters—that’s all material replicated from Doig’s oeuvre. “His work is autobiographical. We looked at his paintings of men, of skiers, ice hockey players, and the night sky,” said Jones. “I think he was fascinated by how closely we could replicate his brushwork in textiles and knitwear.” The cheerful shots of citrus color—translated into some of Jones’s subtle merges of casual and luxurious street-wearable outerwear—are the making of the collection.
Check a few of Doig’s original paintings, and the source becomes clear. Spearfishing, a 2013 canvas, has two men in a boat, the artist’s recollection of seeing a man in an orange wetsuit and another in a yellow anorak, in the Caribbean. The green-brown-yellow sweater and the crocheted white skullcap worn by two of the three Black figures in the artist’s Two Trees are re-rendered in the collection. Rain in the Port of Spain is one of Doig’s lion paintings, spiritually significant iconography initially triggered by the sight of lions in the zoo in Trinidad. “The idea comes from seeing depictions of the Rastafarian Lion of Judah on the walls of buildings, galvanized fences, and T-shirts in the Port of Spain,” he once explained. Doig hand-painted a lion on a Dior bowler hat himself; one of the models carried a huge blanket with a Doig lion woven into it.
Spinning cross-cultural references is part of Kim Jones’s modus operandi: The art-collaboration souvenirs presumably pay for themselves as luxury collector’s items. Otherwise, with a fashion-item eye for change, look down. Whether it’s the pomp-and-ceremony aspect of the collection, or its more casual side, the connecting factor is the wider, easier ’90s-tailored trouser. Wherever Jones goes for inspiration—and however neatly he weaves the threads back into the heritage of Christian Dior—his work is always grounded in what men will really want to wear.
In other news, Rick Owens Fall 2021 Men's. “I’m always conscious of my own aggression. And the older that I get, I feel like I should have reached a level of serenity that I just haven’t; I get impatient, I get itchy, I snap at people sometimes… Aggression is something that I’m fascinated with because I’m constantly conscious of wrestling with it, personally. And I think that that’s true of every man.”