KIM JONES is arguably the most influential designer today, the man who merges the runway and the street. Now that’s he’s taken over DIOR, what can we expect?
Fashion’s main man tells Esquire exclusively how he is guiding Dior Homme back to the forefront
THE RUE DE MARIGNAN is one of those thin, short streets in Paris that epitomize discretion. Tucked behind the Champs-elysées, it’s the kind of place where le Carré would have placed a safe house. No wonder
Dior — always subtle, always understated — keeps its men’s headquarters here.
And yet, on a warm June afternoon . . . “Kim!” “Kanye!” Two people in sunglasses emerge from Dior, intent on navigating the gap between the door they’ve exited through and the car that awaits them. Photographers yell and click. Horns honk. Passersby gaze but pretend not to stare. They are French, after all. So much for discreet. But then again, this celebrity pilgrimage, this paparazzi catwalk, is one big reason Kim Jones has been brought on as Dior’s new men’s-wear designer. Because this is where fashion is right now, and Jones — a humble, unpretentious bloke from London — is likely the true genius-godhead of our current Fashion Moment, the man who more than a decade ago didn’t just foresee that the street and the runway were going to fuse — he led the melding. Maybe that’s why his crowning achievement (and in the eyes of some snobs, his most unforgivable sin) came during his previous stint, at Louis Vuitton, where he engineered a collaboration between the French fashion house and the streetwear juggernaut Supreme.
It’s clear that Jones has already yanked Dior in a bold new direction. Up to now, it had always been an unsurprising couture house, known in men’s wear for pretty much one thing: razor-edged black suits, best worn by young actors on red carpets.
Under his vision the black has been banished, as has the skintight fit. Everywhere we look in the atelier, there are suits in soft pastels and softer silhouettes, giving Dior an elegant and fresh look. Of the forty-nine looks of his Spring/summer 2019 collection there is a definite sense of lightness and ease — reflecting the way that men dress right now.
Dior’s legacy is one of couture tailoring, but this reimagining is something different, something reflecting the effortlessness in which people want to feel in their clothes today.
Maybe the coolest thing Jones is doing is reminding us how rebellious and beautiful the suit can be, especially in his hands. In this era of street wear a th leisure dominance he helped create, the thirtynine-year-old designer shows us that tailoring can be daring too. Not a moody, blend-into-the-black suit but one that embraces colour, one that is cut for comfort. It seems that
Dior Homme’s new remit is to make the lives of men easier.
If anyone can deconstruct the Dior suit, it’s Jones, who has never been one to stand on ceremony. As a London teenager, he fell in love with fashion by way of music and magazines, making T-shirts for his friends to wear when they went out. He went to Central Saint Martins college, where he caught the attention of John Galliano. He launched his own label and ran it for five years. Next, he took the top job at Dunhill in 2008, then he took over Vuitton, and now Dior, with every pair of eyes from the fashion world anticipating and interpreting his every move.
Shortly after unveiling his first collection for Dior — to near unanimous acclaim — Kim Jones exclusively explains to Esquire Middle East how he is only just getting started.
ESQUIRE: Congratulations on the collection. Did you feel the pressure with this being your first for the house? Kim Jones: When I arrived at Dior, I only had three months to build the collection and develop the new identity. There was no time to feel pressure so I just really focused on my work. It also helps that Dior Homme feels like a family and [the house’s President] Pietro Beccari has fully supported me since my arrival. ESQ: What was the main source of inspiration?
KJ: Honestly? It was
Mr. Dior. It helps that the whole archive and heritage at Dior is incredible. It inspired me to keep building the legacy.
I wanted to use the House’s colours and patterns, take pieces from Mr. Dior’s home interiors, family archive, looked at his personal life as reference. The Summer ’19 collection references everything that was Christian Dior.
ESQ: Can you give us specific examples? KJ: The floral motif we used comes from Mr. Dior’s dinner services. They echo both his love of nature, and his “femmes-fleurs”. We blew them up and made them into prints because he was famously into his food as well. His dog, Bobby, inspired a limited edition of the Miss. Dior perfume in 1952, so we did Mr. Dior as the BFF KAWS character with his dog Bobby. The jewellery introduces a new Modernist logo derived from the one used for the Dior family’s business ventures in the 1920s. And, then, the Toile de Jouy which is actually the one from the first store that he did in 1947 and it’s embroidered under en toile of tulle and organza. ESQ: Did you know what the end collection would look like from the get-go or was it a work in progress and you even surprise yourself with the results? KJ: When I started, I had an idea of Dior and of the pieces I thought would transfer into Dior men’s new chapter. I never take things literally. I take them and I reinterpret them. For the first show, it was important to me to look at the tradition of the house and to make the most of the incredible atelier and savoir faire, but I really wanted to start at Dior with Dior. The atelier is truly amazing, so this collection was really inspired by the conversations that took place there, and seeing the archives. I want to surprise people with what I do because I’m actually very multifunctional and I can do different things. ESQ: You seemed to play a lot with the concept of contemporary masculinity, was this a theme in the collection? KJ: I looked at all the references from when Dior was doing Dior and it was a women’s House. But I think when you see it and you break it down, pieces turn into very real things for men. I would call it more ‘romantic’ than ‘feminine’ because I think it’s quite a romantic house. I’ve used the House colours and patterns and taken pieces from Mr. Dior’s life as a reference. We have Dior Grey and Dior Pink, which are two colours that just stand out when you look at everything in the archives and research. We chose pink as one of our main
“I DON’T LIKE THE WORD “STREET”. I DON’T BELIEVE IN IT. EVERYONE WEARS CLOTHES ON THE STREET, SO HOW CAN YOU SAY ‘THAT’S STREET’ AND ‘THAT’S NOT STREET’ WHEN IT’S WORN ON THE SAME STREET?”
colours because it was used in women’s gowns during our Maison’s founding era as well as in Mr. Dior’s family home.
ESQ: Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?
KJ: I have a lot that I like, but I think one of my favourite pieces is the white-collar shirt with white “toile de jouy” feathers all-over embroidery handmade by Maison Lemarié, using the same haute couture approach. It’s a real haute couture piece that required 1,000 hours to realize.
The toile de Jouy has been chosen for the original boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne, which is a new Dior emblem inspired by this heritage. ESQ: When you’re designing, how hard is it to distance yourself enough from the clothes so they represent the house instead of your own style? KJ: Every time I join a company, I always work on the codes of the brand and make an overview of what the house needs, then I look at myself. I’ve researched a wide variety of topics in various Maison archives. In them I’d find things that I particularly liked and my own style, and would then focus on those things when doing research. There are a lot of Maisons and a lot of collections, so I’m good at quickly finding things in them that make me think “Yes! This is it!” and moving with agility.
ESQ: What did you think of Virgil’s first show for Louis Vuitton? KJ: Virgil and I are very close friends. I was there for his first collection for Louis Vuitton and it was a great show.
ESQ: Sportswear is still very evident, do you see a split between the sportswear and the tailoring offering in the house? In terms of customers, retailers and design process? KJ: I started with a tailoring base and I actually looked at sportswear with a couture finish. The collection is actually really chic and elegant. Because that’s what this Maison is like. So, it was taking what the House has done, which is couture and tailoring and using that into making the new stuff. I don’t even like the word “street”. I don’t believe in it… because everyone wears clothes on the street,
so how can you say that’s street and that’s not street when it’s worn on the same street? As a designer, you don’t have to do one thing. It’s nice to turn a page and do something new. I think that’s the thing that men want to wear and how they wear it, rather than calling it ‘sportswear’ or ‘streetwear’ or whatever. It’s all mixed together now.
ESQ: Why did you decide to work with [American artist] KAWS on the show?
KJ: I’ve always wanted to work with KAWS,
I think he’s super chic and his work speaks to a lot of people. Both of those things were important to me [at Dior]. I’ve grown up loving KAWS, and now he’s one of the major artists of his generation and it’s for everybody really. I wanted an element of surprise so we commissioned KAWS to redesign the bee. We did Mr. Dior as the BFF KAWS character with his dog Bobby, I’d wanted to make this show into something massive, and it was a huge success with KAWS help. Dior is a large company, but the staff really respect each other, and the Maison has a warm family-like atmosphere. KAWS really fits well into that.
ESQ: For the jewellery, you chose to collaborate with Yoon of Ambush. What was it about her that you thought would work for Dior Men’s? KJ: With Yoon, I thought it would be nice to have someone that was working on custom jewellery who was not French and came from a different part of the world. Yoon is a really independent woman and her interpretation of Dior is fantastic, and she really gets the kind of things
Above: looks from the Dior S/S19 collection. Below: the centre piece of the runway show— a giant Mr. Dior inspired BFF KAWS
Above: the new Dior suiting silhouetteBelow: Kate Moss, Kim Jones and Naomi Campbell
Models on the runway around the huge BFF KAWS character
The detailing and colours were inspired by Dior archives