The autumn-winter 2023 collection is Kim Jones‘ best line-up for Dior Men, hands down. It felt like an eureka moment, a direction for the designer to take with the brand. The new season sees a change of spirit and style, with Jones presenting an absolute understanding of sophisticated menswear that can be both unexpected and easy, refined and relevant. Inspiration-wise, the British designer returned to his extensive collection of rare books once again. He brought in Robert Pattinson and Gwendoline Christie to recite The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot’s epically difficult, melancholic poem written in the aftermath of World War I. Jones owns six copies of this work of English literature which is considered to be pivotal to the modernism of exactly a century ago; so there were the faces of Pattinson and Christie, filmed by Baillie Walsh, and blown up on massive screens as the models walked past. All that’s just to fill in the background. What Jones took from the meaning of this most British of works was to do with its themes of time passing, death and renewal. “For me, I read it as about renewal and change; times changing,” he said before the show. “So it begins with Christian Dior dying, and then Yves Saint Laurent coming in and suddenly doing new things. And there’s a lot of me in it.” To parse the fashion stanzas: there were pale, neutral colors, a looseness and fluidity, layerings of transparent trails streaming from the backs of trousers. There was a moment for jackets and sweaters embroidered with tiny chains of abstracted lily of the valley, the early spring flower-favorite of Christian Dior. Then, as Christie and Pattinson spoke Eliot’s passages on death by drowning, there were conceptual life jackets with tonally matched buoyancy pads, riffs on seafarer’s Aran knits, voluminous A-line storm coats, takes on yellow seafaring oilskin raincoats, and sou’westers. Over the long run, Jones has been a pioneer in bringing street references into high fashion, and then insisting on applying Christian Dior’s women’s templates to menswear. As times move on, it’s a measure of Jones’s influence that the skirts – and shorts so wide that they look like skirts – in this show now pass as quite normal. He’s working in 2023, not 1923, like T.S. Eliot. English academics the world over might be aghast at Eliot’s poetry being used in a fashion show, but the two Britishers at least have this in common: being out to change the discipline they work in, mediating between history and the future.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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