what does kim jones' dior mean for the future of menswear?
Show's over, what's next? We speak to the people who know him best as we explore the seismic shift his move away from streetwear will have on luxury fashion.
Photography Brett Lloyd.
In the moments before Kim Jones delivered his first collection as head of Dior’s menswear, you could feel the industry preparing itself for a seismic shift. He’s a ‘once in a blue moon’ designer; a fashion pioneer whose knockout work -- at his own brand, at Dunhill and, until quite recently, at Louis Vuitton -- has earned him a well-deserved status as one of our industry’s most lauded and admired talents.
After all, he was the man to officially usher streetwear into the luxury sphere during his time at LV. He managed to change the way the industry interpreted exactly what luxury meant; clothes once reserved for skaters and the hip hop cognoscenti were now part of its narrative. At the time, Kim’s Supreme x Louis Vuitton crossover for autumn/winter 2017 felt like a benchmark moment, and its aftershock spread far and wide.
The connotations of luxury soon shifted from fine garments, toiled over for months in ateliers, to quick-impact T-shirts and hoodies. Supreme’s white-on-red logo became as ubiquitous as the iconic French house’s unmistakable monogram, and our most sought after item was no longer a luxury handbag, but the cross-body, logo-emblazoned kind. That collection has been a point of reference during every menswear season since.
So when news broke that Kim would be making the move from one storied LVMH house to another, everybody was speculating whether or not the streetwear element of his designs would follow. But Kim has never been one to mirror people’s preconceptions: stepping through Dior’s doors, he left the past in the past and approached his new position with a clean slate.
“Kim has everything in reach to blossom the culture, adventure, inquiry, and direction of Dior menswear.”
“Kim had nothing more to prove,” Lulu Kennedy, the founder of Fashion East and his long-time friend told i-D, when we asked her why she felt he stepped back from the streetwear narrative to form a collection in touch with his new house’s roots. “He didn’t need to do a big number like that again, [and yet] it was still totally major how he played his Dior debut. He loves pop culture with a passion.” The link-up with Kaws, who turned one of his characters into a 10 metre-tall floral Dior mascot was “pure pop and fresh” for Lulu. “His research is incredible too. That’s how he brings magic and the new so effortlessly.”
Fine tailoring and the construction of clothing is almost considered a minor talking point nowadays, dwarfed by our fascination with maximalism and the unsubtle; the hypebeast-friendly and the headline-bait. But Kim’s softer and more intricate vision felt like a new page had been turned. “Kim has everything in reach to blossom the culture, adventure, inquiry, and direction of Dior menswear,” Andre Walker, the legendary New York designer told i-D, “– and the market in general.”
The spring/summer 2019 collection was shaped by Kim’s love and admiration for Christian Dior, both the brand and its eponymous founder. The cut of his suits, button fastenings taken from centre to the side, were inspired by the Oblique silhouette first unveiled by the house’s OG designer back in the 1950s. There was a romanticism to it: lots of crisp, sometimes sheer summer suiting that looked as fragile as butterfly wings. Some were patterned with a toile du jouy design Kim lifted from the walls of the house’s first boutique. It all felt -- to be a bit binary with things -- effeminate, but that was Kim’s MO: to take this elegant house’s womenswear history and translate it into a new uniform for the modern, progressive man. Heck, he even knocked the ‘Homme’ gender-specific addendum off the brand’s name to bring him closer to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s mainline womenswear collection.
Never one to settle himself in the past, Kim placed his historical reference points alongside the streetwear-spun stylings we’re familiar with, as well as the designers of the future. Almost all of his models wore sneakers, the brilliant Yoon Ahn – Lulu calls her hiring a “major coup” – created intricate, dog-bone jewellery inspired by Dior’s canine companion , and Matthew Williams of Alyx fame created a killer ‘C.D.’ clasp system that Kim used across belts, bags and headwear.
We have a habit of following Kim’s innovative lead, and his way of looking back to create something fresh, sprightly and sophisticated might just have the power to signal the passing of streetwear in luxury fashion. “[His placement at Dior is] a complete blessing and an immense privilege for all involved,” Andre tells us. “Fashion is hard work. Kim can nurture and protect the Dior heritage while moving ahead with full spectrum consideration of the task at hand.” Maybe now, after a few years exposed to the very trend Kim catalysed, he’s the only one capable of letting us bring that chapter to a close.
What Kim Jones creates is greater than clothes -- it’s culture. His work as a designer, no matter what brand he finds himself at the helm of, extends beyond high fashion, impacting the way the outside world looks in on it too.
The plan is in motion: rumour has it Kim already has two more seasons of Dior menswear mapped out. It’s no surprise to Lulu, who says he’s always been a forward planner. “He’s a realist with a very rigorous method, well taught by Professor Louise Wilson, and he has always credited those formative years with her as important,” she tells us, going back to his days as a fashion kid at Central Saint Martins. Art direction, too, like the grandiose Kaws floral statue he commissioned for the show as well as Diplo on decks, has always been in his blood. “You could see that from the very beginning of his career,” she adds. “Kim would present a whole look, mood, and character -- it was never just clothes.” Andre, too, sees Kim’s future as a bright one: “Now is the perfect time to procure further awareness of his potential and how Dior will proceed,” he claims. “He's quite experienced now, and we are all very proud for him.”
What Kim Jones creates is greater than clothes -- it’s culture. His work as a designer, no matter what brand he finds himself at the helm of, extends beyond high fashion, impacting the way the outside world looks in on it too. When it comes to menswear nowadays, he’s the creative voice we all seem to follow. And wherever he’s heading next, we’re bound to be there with him.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.