Men’s – Kim Meets Travis. Dior SS22

At Dior, Kim Jones has collaborated with some of the finest visual artists out there, from Peter Doig to Raymond Pettibon and Daniel Arsham. But somehow this season’s joint effort with a 29-year-old rapper from Houston made the most sense. Travis Scott is one of the most remarkable musicians in the world right now, a Gen Z idol who embodies the esoteric fashion attitude of social-media culture and who has a child with Kylie Jenner. He is the type of celebrity who sits front row at Jones’s shows. But today the hip-hop community is no longer being dictated to by fashion. They’ve shifted that paradigm, claimed their rightful influence on the industry, and got behind the wheel. Scott’s collaboration with Dior was a manifestation of that evolution: a meeting between a creator and his muse, who hadn’t quite decided who had been cast in which role. “From the stage to the music, it was never just about the clothes but about the experience,” Scott said during fittings in Jones’s Paris ateliers. “It’s how you see and hear it, how you see the music.” He was talking about the live show production—which spliced memories of Christian Dior’s childhood gardens with the cactus-heavy Texan landscape Scott grew up around—but he might as well have been painting a picture of his own fashion understanding. Gifted with an instinct for styling, Scott has a personal wardrobe as distinctive as his sound. “It’s about taste, isn’t it?” Jones told Scott. “Some people have it, some don’t. Luckily you do!” The internet will give you endless get-the-look guides on Scott and his designers of choice, from Jones to Virgil Abloh, Phoebe Philo, and the cult Japanese brands that underline said esoteric fashion culture. Going forward, style tips can all defer to this season’s Dior collection, which was a medley of those influences. Jones explained it was inspired by the artist’s own look as well as his various creative outputs. “We had some hard design sessions for a couple of months,” Scott said. “I would draw graphics and send them to him. We sat down with mad refs, breaking down where we felt like we wanted to take it.” The palette painted a picture of Houston, its pink skies, green cacti, and the browns of the earth that have become trademark colors in Scott’s wardrobe. The silhouette felt rooted in the rapper’s penchant for a slightly oversized top paired with a flared pant, skinny but not tight. Iterations on tracksuit bottoms were particularly strong, tailored to precision and studded with cowboy-like metal buttons down the side. In a nod to that same cultural heritage, Scott had interpreted John Galliano’s saddle bag for Dior as a double bag that felt more rodeo than ever. Another of the artist’s signatures: patterns that evoked the rattlesnakes and desert flowers of the Texan plains. He had cacti-fied the maison’s toile de Jouy, while the ghostly motifs that appeared on tops were his own. “They’re imaginary things that kind of pop up in my head, and I draw them by hand,” Scott said, pointing to the same motifs woven in knits. “These are knitted by hand, which is so fucking nuts. It’s crazy.
Talking about the trips he and Jones had taken to the Dior archives, Scott was clearly in heaven. “Me coming in and being able to have those in my hands…,” he paused, a smile on his face. Later, he effused about the wish-to-reality aspect of an atelier like Dior, which can literally make anything happen. “Making some of your imagination come to life, it’s kind of crazy.” His enthusiasm was visible in the collection, and that’s why it felt like such a shrewd match for Jones. Rather than applying an artist’s work to his own garments like he’s done in the past, this was the designer inviting his perhaps most influential Dior client to take an active part in the creation, from silhouette to motif and surface decoration. It was organic.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Peter Doig. Dior AW21

While everybody is obsessed with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior… I’m still on fence with it. In overall, I love how he implements couture traditions of the maison and, at least, makes his part amusing, comparing to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s womenswear. But his autumn-winter 2021 collection just feels regular. Maybe it’s the side-effect of working on the Fendi debut? Again, Jones invited an artist to collaborate. This time, it’s 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.” The line-up is full of Doig references: yellow anoraks, orange coats, and lions; 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. Other than that (fashion-meets-art dialogues are always compelling), I wasn’t really convinced by the whole picture.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Trippy Elegance. Dior Men Pre-Fall 2021

This time last year, Kim Jones’ many fans across the fashion and art worlds were gathered in Miami Beach. His Dior Men show was a Basel-adjacent affair, complete with a walk-through of the new Rubell Museum. Last moments of old reality. The pandemic scuttled plans to stage a show in Beijing for Jones’s latest outing, and this way sole focus was directed at the clothes. Last year, Jones revealed a colorful collaboration with Shawn Stussy, the streetwear OG. This season, he tapped Kenny Scharf, an American artist who emerged from the 1980s East Village scene, making street art alongside his friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. “The fun and the energy of that time – you see young kids being excited by Kenny Scharf’s work. It’s speaking across generations,” Jones told Vogue via Zoom. Scharf’s canvases can now fetch up to six figures, but he still has street cred: via “Karbombz,” a public art project, he’s tagged upwards of 300 cars with his imaginary creatures – all for free. Scharf, whose first show was at New York’s Fiorucci boutique in 1979 and earliest fashion hookup was with Stephen Sprouse, is the perfect Jones collaborator. His work gleefully obliterates boundaries too. “I’m one of the inventors of all that,” Scharf said on a call from his L.A. studio. He raved about Jones: “He’s a listener, he’s a learner, and that shows. He went really deep into what I’m doing.” Together, the designer and the artist selected contemporary pieces and older ones to reproduce, including When the Worlds Collide, a 1984 canvas in the Whitney’s permanent collection. Scharf also designed 12 Chinese zodiac signs for the show’s knits and underpinnings, and, of course, he had free rein to reinterpret the Dior logo. “I just wanted it to be a very full-on version, using specific techniques to recreate his work in really beautiful ways, to make it even more Pop,” Jones said. In some cases, the Dior ateliers were joined by Chinese artisans who rendered Scharf paintings in delicate seed embroideries. Silhouette-wise, Jones’s instinct was to soften his distinctive tailoring and give it a more lounge-y attitude. Jackets are belted like robes and pants are easy; some of the models wear Oblique-patterned slippers. We are still locked in, after all – lets keep it stylish.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Kim Meets Amoako. Dior SS21

While the digital fashion month of men’s spring-summer 2020 collections is full of sleepy look-books, there are some line-ups that make my heart skip a beat. I was quite on fence with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior, but the new collection is brilliant. And it redefines the word “collaboration” in 2020. Jones invited the 36-year-old Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, whose stunning huge-scale portraits of Black subjects – partly richly finger-painted – have a skyrocketing reputation in the contemporary art world. “It’s a portrait of an artist who I greatly admire,” Jones said. “[The gallerist] Mera Rubell introduced me to Amoako last year in Miami. I really loved his work and wanted to work with him because of my own links to Africa. He lives between Vienna, where he studied, Ghana, and Chicago. So we sat down and discussed.” The first results – a collection fusing Boafo’s art with Dior artisanship, a look book, and a documentary film shot at the artist’s studio in Accra and at Jones’ home in London- are launched in a more intimate, in-depth and intelligent way than could possibly have come across in front of the usual roar of the crowd and show hustle of the Paris collections. In the video, Boafo is in his studio in Ghana as he paints and describes how he captures friends and family, “and people who create spaces for others to exist.” He speaks about the flat colors he uses to silhouette his figures, and, he explains, “how fashion inspires my work. I tend to look at characters who have that sense of style.” Friends hanging at Boafo’s place are wearing pieces from the collection, and the artist is working in a faded wallpaper print Dior Men shirt, whose pattern has bounced back in a creative arc from portrait to garment. The collection is smaller and more edited than it would have been – which actually works better than nearly 100 looks shows Dior has every season. Jones was working out of his Notting Hill house with a small team and long distance with Dior ateliers in France to get it done over the past months. The result: clothes saturated with uplifting color and print, which pinpoint Boafo’s signatures within the language the designer has established for a Dior man. Celebrating and platforming Boafo’s work for a luxury fashion market meant, among other things, transferring the tactile energy of his finger-painted heads into two intensely embroidered sweaters. The pattern from a semi-sheer fil coupé jacquard shirt sprang from a close-up Jones had taken of Boafo’s brush work. He also lifted subtle inspiration from haute couture – the gray taffeta blouson being a renewed, more youthful and summery iteration of the opera coat which opened his last show.

Still, even without the Black Lives Matter uprising which is fundamentally changing the way all institutions are being interrogated now, a collaboration like this was always going to demand detailed explanation. This one is tooled differently from the usual artist-brand collab. Behind it is an exchange with Dior which was stipulated by Boafo. “He said he didn’t want a royalty [for himself], but help to build a foundation for young artists in Accra,” Jones said. A donation made by Christian Dior (the sum was not specified) backs up Boafo’s activism. In using the leverage of his market power to lift up African art and artists, he is one of the new generation of Black artists who believe in the transformative empowerment of cultural education. In May, Boafo raised $190,000 (three times the estimate) with an online auction of his painting, Aurore Iradukunda, to benefit the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. The initiative will consist of a building that will host Boafo’s studio, a residence, and an artist-run gallery, supporting young artists in Ghana and their studio practice. “The change needed right now is to support young people through college and training to give everyone equal opportunities,” Jones said. The focus of this project is close to his heart, and, he says, to part of his own upbringing as the son of a hydrogeologist who worked throughout the continent. “We moved to Ethiopia when I was around three years old, spent time living there, and then moved around east Africa and then Botswana. I’ve kept going back for the rest of my life.” Underlying his motivation – using Dior’s fashion broadcasting capabilities to enlighten a broad audience about the vitality of contemporary African art, as well as facilitating a project with cash – is a quieter salute to Jones’s father, who recently passed away. “The fact that we are working with Amoako Boafo, from Ghana, which was one of my father’s favorite African countries is,” he said, “a fitting tribute to the man who introduced me to Africa and the world.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki; artworks by Amoako Boafo.

Tokyo Boy. Dior Men Pre-Fall 2019

So we came to this moment in fashion, when menswear’s pre-collections are as important as women’s. Or, as in case of Kim Jones’s latest line-up for Dior Men, even more significant (sorry, Maria Grazian Chiuri). It’s just his second season at Dior’s menswear line, but Jones isn’t afraid to take big steps to catch everybody’s attention. Well, and there are major reasons why Dior Men is so appealing lately – just see your Instagram feed that is still buzzing with the designer’s Tokyo extravaganza. The new collection reinterpreted Christian Dior’s love for Japanese culture through multiple lenses, including cherry blossom prints (thought no one would make them look THIS fresh) and two kimono-inspired looks, made in leather. But Kim smoothly avoided Japan-related clichés, by focusing on today’s Japanese way of dressing – and the beloved, futurist aesthetic. Best prove of the latter: Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama created a 39-foot fembot sculpture for the runway’s set; a similar silver robot appeared as a print in the collection. Utility and workwear were represented via metallic harnesses with Dior’s signature chair caning at the back and robot-inspired jewellery. Very cosmic. But what’s most impressive about Jones’s work at Dior – which he already demonstrated last season – is the way he combines menswear easiness with couture level craftsmanship. A white astrakhan bomber that shaded into a toile de Jouy is something elegant, yet wearable, and surely with a out-of-this-world price tag. The more conservative, business-kind of Dior Men client will choose tailoring and (possibly) several of those asymmetrical suits.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.