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.
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.