DIOR MEN TAKES ITS NEXT STEPS

Af­ter a hugely suc­cess­ful de­but sea­son, Kim Jones dis­cusses how he’s tak­ing one of the world’s most revered fash­ion brands into the new era.

GQ (Australia) - - CONTENTS - WORDS JAKE MIL­LAR PHO­TOG­RA­PHY WIN­TER VANDENBRINK

Lead­ing the way is Kim Jones, whose fin­ger is never too far from the pulse.

Whichever way you cut it, the fash­ion in­dus­try has rarely looked as healthy as it does right now. Menswear, in par­tic­u­lar, is thriv­ing. It’s cur­rently grow­ing with a rate that’s out­pac­ing even wom­enswear and on track to pour some $600bn into the global mar­ket by 2020. But what re­mains sur­pris­ing is not the sheer vol­ume of fash­ion brands out there at the mo­ment – not to men­tion var­i­ous dif­fu­sion lines, celebrity la­bels, and count­less col­labs – but how few of them re­main truly con­se­quen­tial. In the same way that you need not have watched a sin­gle ten­nis match to have heard of Roger Fed­erer or have seen a sin­gle film in years to ap­pre­ci­ate the sig­nif­i­cance of The God­fa­ther series, there are a hand­ful of brands whose rep­u­ta­tions ex­tend beyond fash­ion alone. And it’s some­thing Kim Jones knows all about, since he’s worked at most of them. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Lon­don’s famed star­mak­ing fash­ion col­lege, Cen­tral Saint Martins (whose alumni in­clude Alexan­der Mcqueen, John Gal­liano, Ric­cardo Tisci and many oth­ers), Jones launched an epony­mous brand, be­fore land­ing roles at a series of the world’s best-known fash­ion houses. There were stints at Hugo Boss, Mul­berry, and then Al­fred Dun­hill, at which he won the Bri­tish Fash­ion Coun­cil’s Menswear De­signer of the Year, in 2009. But it was with his ar­rival at Louis Vuit­ton some two years later that Jones would make his name on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

There, he quickly es­tab­lished him­self as a rest­less de­signer, some­one who man­aged that al­most im­pos­si­ble task of hav­ing a fin­ger on the pulse of what’s cool, while stay­ing at­tuned to what kept the cash reg­is­ters ring­ing. He demon­strated an un­canny abil­ity to take the very essence of a legacy brand and trans­late it into some­thing peo­ple would want not just now, but in years to come. Louis Vuit­ton, you might think, would be the pin­na­cle of some­one’s jour­ney in the fash­ion world. Yet Jones wasn’t done climb­ing. Last Jan­uary, it was an­nounced he would be leav­ing LV af­ter pre­sent­ing his fi­nal show – a col­lec­tion of 52 in­tri­cate looks that were capped off by a fi­nal lap along­side fel­low fash­ion icons, Naomi Camp­bell and Kate Moss. But those left won­der­ing where Jones would end up did not have to wait long. His ar­rival at Dior Men was re­vealed in March, but the de­signer made it of­fi­cial (in the way that all good things are these days) with an In­sta­gram post. Jones uploaded a shot look­ing out of a win­dow at Dior’s famed Paris head­quar­ters, as he – and the fash­ion house – pre­pared to face a new era. The cap­tion read, sim­ply: ‘Day 1’. “I loved my time at Louis Vuit­ton,” Jones tells GQ, amid prepa­ra­tions for his pre-fall show in Tokyo this past Novem­ber, “but Chris­tian Dior is a cou­ture house, with an ate­lier – it’s the dream. Dior rep­re­sents the best of the best. Sim­ple as that.” Not that there was much time for Jones to re­flect on the mile­stone. Just a cou­ple of months af­ter ar­riv­ing, Dior Men’s new artis­tic direc­tor would send his de­but spring/sum­mer 2019 col­lec­tion down the run­way at Paris Fash­ion Week. And as any­one with a work­ing in­ter­net con­nec­tion will now know only too well, it was a sen­sa­tion. A chang­ing of the guard that won uni­ver­sally pos­i­tive re­views for its lighter, brighter, more en­er­getic take on the house. “I had an idea of Dior and the pieces I thought would trans­fer into Dior’s new chap­ter. I’ve used the house colours and pat­terns and taken pieces from his in­te­ri­ors and fam­ily ar­chive as a ref­er­ence,” says Jones. “It’s all Dior pre-dior re­ally. I never take things lit­er­ally. I take them and I rein­ter­pret them. For the first show, I wanted to sur­prise peo­ple.” To do it, Jones equipped him­self with a trip to the Dior ar­chives, soak­ing up as much re­search as pos­si­ble about Dior’s life and in­ter­ests – from his love of flow­ers, gar­den­ing and the arts, to his homes, and even his beloved dog, Bobby – as well as ref­er­ences from the early years of the house. “I looked at the amaz­ing ar­chive and at Mr Dior’s per­sonal life be­fore and dur­ing Dior cou­ture. It was all very, very fast – we had two months,” says Jones. “The ate­lier is truly amaz­ing, so this col­lec­tion was re­ally inspired by the con­ver­sa­tions that took place there, and see­ing the ar­chives and look­ing at things like the de­signs of pock­ets helped me come up with var­i­ous de­sign so­lu­tions. The her­itage at Dior is in­cred­i­ble and the re­spect for it is so great, it inspired me to keep build­ing the legacy,” he says.

“I loved my time at Louis Vuit­ton, but Chris­tian Dior is a cou­ture house, with an ate­lier – it’s the dream. Dior rep­re­sents the best of the best. Sim­ple as that.”

In­deed, you didn’t need to look far to no­tice signs of the old Dior in the new one. There was an up­dated Dior logo on jew­ellery, based off a de­sign from the ’20s, the house’s sig­na­ture can­nage ‘wo­ven’ pat­tern that Jones laser-cut into trench coats and bags, and a ver­sion of the brand’s iconic sad­dle­bag, this time up­dated into su­per-cool cross-body, back­pack and belt-bag ver­sions. “En­er­getic, re­spect­ful to the house, and ref­er­enc­ing Mr Dior’s per­sonal world and life – but for 2019,” says Jones of his first Dior Men col­lec­tion. “To me it’s all about play­ing with the house codes, and us­ing the savoir faire of the ate­lier and ar­chive pieces to make them modern and rel­e­vant. We have used cou­ture de­tail­ing and tech­niques, but with modern fab­ric devel­op­ments and crafts­man­ship,” adding that be­cause Dior col­lec­tions are pro­duced in an ate­lier – an on-site stu­dio in which the clothes

are made – there is even more scope to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent tech­niques and fab­ri­ca­tions in real time. “The sys­tem is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from that of brands where ev­ery­thing is based on a man­u­fac­tur­ing process,” he ex­plains. “Here, we fol­low a cou­ture process; we have con­stant ac­cess to the gar­ments and we’re free to do ev­ery­thing we imag­ine. It’s fan­tas­tic! At Louis Vuit­ton, the cloth­ing was pro­duced at the fac­tory, so we only saw the gar­ments at the fit­tings. From a cre­ative point of view, Dior is much more fun. When you see the clothes con­stantly, you have more time to re­think and process them. It’s a much more or­ganic way of work­ing.” This, a mix of old and new, of reimag­in­ing the past to cre­ate the fu­ture, is clas­sic Jones. And none of it should come as a sur­prise to any­one with even a pass­ing in­ter­est in his ca­reer. This is, af­ter all, the man who brought street-wear la­bel Supreme to Louis Vuit­ton. Jones was keen to bring a sim­i­lar ex­per­i­men­tal and col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to his time at Dior. At his spring/sum­mer col­lec­tion, it was hard to miss the gi­ant teddy bear ver­sion of Chris­tian Dior at the cen­tre of the run­way, a piece courtesy of Amer­i­can artist KAWS. De­signer Matthew Wil­liams, of streetwear la­bel Alyx, cre­ated chunky Dior buckles, which mod­els wore on caps and bags. Then there’s jew­ellery de­signer Yoon Ahn who cre­ated sig­na­ture rings, ear studs, neck­laces and more. It’s a re­fresh­ing ap­proach. Af­ter all, the fash­ion in­dus­try is not what it used to be when Mr Dior was still around, and to­day, the de­mands on de­sign­ers in­clude over­see­ing not just clothes, shoes and bags, but fra­grances, sun­glasses, store de­signs, even en­tire ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. It’s a lot of work. And it makes sense to build a team of peo­ple whose skills you ad­mire. “It’s nice to have an out­side source,” says Jones, of his love of col­lab­o­ra­tion. “When­ever I work with an artist, I give them an idea of what we need but then re­spect their vi­sion to do what they want to do, that’s the se­cret of a great col­lab­o­ra­tion. “Matthew Wil­liams is a friend of mine, and I love the buckles he does, so rather than use copies, I had him make orig­i­nals. He also has a great un­der­stand­ing of Dior, and is one of the artists that I want to work to­gether with in the fu­ture. “Yoon is part of the stu­dio – I thought it was nice to have some­one that was work­ing on cus­tom jew­ellery. Her in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dior is fan­tas­tic, and she re­ally gets the kind of things I like.” He may have a new team, but one thing from Jones’ Louis Vuit­ton days has not changed. Despite the de­mands of his place at the helm one of the world’s big­gest fash­ion houses, he re­tains a travel sched­ule likely to pro­voke feel­ings of envy or ex­haus­tion – or a mix­ture of both; for­ever post­ing from South Africa, Ja­pan, Utah and beyond (and that’s just in the last few weeks). “I still travel a lot be­cause I want to see the whole world be­fore I die. I want to visit ev­ery coun­try and see all the fab­u­lous things there are,” he says. “We are very for­tu­nate to live on this planet.” At a time when de­sign­ers can be heavy handed – all too quick to sim­ply wipe the slate clean upon ar­rival, and trans­plant a brand’s legacy with an aes­thetic of their own – Jones’s strength has al­ways been his keen sense of how to keep one foot in the past and the other in the present. His eye, though, is al­ways on what lies ahead. Fol­low­ing pop-up bou­tiques in Tokyo, Lon­don, LA and Dubai, Dior Men will open a pop-up space in Syd­ney later this month; dior.com

“From a cre­ative point of view, Dior is much more fun. When you see the clothes con­stantly, you have more time to re­think and process them. It’s a much more or­ganic way of work­ing.”

OP­PO­SITE Jones with Dior’s CEO Pi­etro Bec­cari; the fa­mous Dior sad­dle­bag.

THIS PAGE, FROM LEFT A se­lec­tion of Dior Men jew­ellery ac­ces­sories; Dior Men HQ on Av­enue Mon­taigne in Paris.

OP­PO­SITE The French house’s SS19 show fea­tured fresh in­ter­pre­ta­tions of sum­mer suit­ing.

ABOVE, FROM LEFT Bri­tish rap­per Skepta (right) in­spects Dior’s new neck­laces; Dior Men sneak­ers; pieces from the SS19 col­lec­tion.

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