Dior Men’s AW21 show was Kim Jones’s most impressive collab to date
Kim partnered with legendary artist Peter Doig to create a menswear collection that brought the latter's dreamlike paintings to life.
Courtesy of Dior / Brett Lloyd
Not just an immensely talented fashion designer, Kim Jones is the master of collaborations. Whether it’s streetwear labels, contemporary artists or countercultural legends, Kim is not afraid to share the limelight with a fellow creative genius. For his AW21 collection, the British creative director of Dior Men teamed up with Scottish painter Peter Doig, arguably one of the great living artists of his generation, known for his dreamlike snapshots of contemporary life.
This is a big deal. Most galleries or museums would kill to get Peter on board, and certainly no other fashion designer but Kim could. The result of their partnership was spellbinding, to say the least. The characters and colours from Peter’s paintings are brought to life on the catwalk in a space designed by the artist himself, with blue-skies walls and stacked sound systems blasting out Honey Dijon’s upbeat soundtrack (a mix of Our Darkness by Annie Clark and Gheringer’s Full Moon, in case you were wondering). “I wanted to up it, mainly because I have a new role [as creative director of Fendi] which people will maybe be looking at more,” Kim explained over the phone. “I wanted to make sure that I topped it up a bit for Dior to make it more exciting. Because my job is to make sure both brands are doing really well.”
Though artist-fashion collaborations have become de rigueur at most houses, there’s something utterly sincere about the way Kim chooses the people he wants to invite into the inner sanctum of 30 Avenue Montaigne. To start, they’re usually someone he’s completely in awe of and whose work he has personally collected, but it also stems from a reverence to Christian Dior himself. That’s because long before he was a couturier, Monsieur Dior was a gallerist and illustrator, a member of café society in Paris alongside Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali, and a supporter of artists including Alberto Giacometti, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and Giorgio di Chirico. Recognising this, Kim has made artist collaborations a central component to his approach at Dior, much like his womenswear counterpart, Maria Grazia Chiuri. "It seems relevant to keep the legacy alive,” explains Kim, who unleashes the full effect of Dior’s unrivalled ateliers to delicately translate artists’ works onto fabrics. “It fitted very naturally and it became the starting point. Peter’s various lives and personalities come through in the collection.”
Indeed, just 45 looks brought to life the characters and colours of Peter’s paintings with all their soft, muted blues and dusky mauves, alongside vibrant jolts of canary yellow, blood-orange and verdant green. The regimental precision of military uniforms — also a nod to Peter’s work — ran throughout: neatly tailored frock coats and tunic jackets, streamlined cadet-stripe trousers and silk camo jacquards brought that signature Dior sharpness to it all. "I wanted to take that celebratory aspect of uniform forward into dressing up, because it feels relevant for right now,” Kim said, noting that if anything, the collection is a riposte to the dressed-down mood of the moment. “It’s a reaction to the weird times we’re living in and I want to put optimism out there. That's what Christian Dior stands for: joie de vivre. When everyone is free, we’ll all want to be dressing up and going out and living their lives fully.”
Peter even made new works of art especially for his collaboration with Dior, his made-for-Dior figurative watercolours becoming the basis of colourful mohair sweaters — and he even painted directly onto a handful of the felt hats made by Stephen Jones, which will eventually go up for sale. “It’s like buying an actual piece of art,” Kim points out. Elsewhere, some of the clothes that the figures wear in his paintings made their way into the collection, like the red-green-and-yellow sweater worn in Two Trees (2017), finished off with baroque little brooches and a medley of Stephen’s hats that included bowlers, berets and crochet bonnets (which also appeared in that painting). Elegant wool overcoats, some in reimagined jacquards of Peter’s Milky Way (1990), grounded the military garb with pragmatism and emphasised the notion that one day, hopefully soon, we’ll be dressing up to go far beyond our front doors. And if we’re dressed anything like this, what could be better?