Dior: Kim Jones explains the collaborations revolutionising luxury menswear
Streetwear fans will remember Pastelle, the label founded by Kanye West in the mid 2000s to revolutionise the fashion industry. His ambition was shared by Virgil Abloh, who was part of his team, and other rising stars such as Kim Jones. Much has changed since then: Virgil Abloh became the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collection while Kim Jones, who shot to prominence at the French fashion house, joined Dior Men. Kanye West’s fashion brand never lived up to its promise, but it paved the way for what became streetwear’s evolution into a luxury category, and promoted the rise of designer collaborations. Already in 2017, it was clear that Kim Jones would influence the history of streetwear when, for the first time, a luxury house puts its ‘savoir faire’ at the service of a casualwear brand. The collection that would change the course of luxury? Louis Vuitton x Supreme.
“I love to be surrounded by creative people. I really like working in a team, it brings out the best in my work,” says Kim Jones at Vogue Fashion Festival on 15 November as he looks back at the collaborations that have shaped his career. The list is long and it includes a recent capsule collection designed by Dior’s menswear designer and Rimowa. Not to mention the Dior x Jordan collaboration rumour that has been making its rounds on sneaker websites and has tongues wagging on social media. The French fashion house has neither confirmed nor denied the story, but the idea of collaboration is key in Kim Jones’ work. “I love to share information, talk about creating and building things,” he says.
A point in case is the way he has approached runway shows since he joined Dior nearly two years ago, starting with a first partnership with American artist Kaws. “One of the reasons I wanted to work with him was that he is very popular. Christian Dior is about the joy of living. So to honour him, I wanted to make a statue with his favorite flowers,” he recalls about the giant statue made with 70,000 flowers that towered over the presentation of his first collection for Dior. Since then, the brand has collaborated with a different artist every season. Japan’s Hajime Sorayama joined the label for the Pre Fall 2019 collection, American artist Raymond Pettibon collaborated with Jones for the Autumn Winter 2019/2020 season and New Yorker Daniel Arsham followed suit for Spring Summer 2020. Looking ahead, the British designer refuses to reveal who’s next, but drops a hint. “The next collection will be made with a jewellery designer, not an artist,” he says.
Whilst teaming up with other creatives can help inject a new energy into the brand every season, Jones is determined to respect the maison’s heritage by looking for similarities with its founder. “Christian Dior worked with many popular artists such as Picasso or Dalí. I like working with teams and different artists in different ways,” he says. For the latest collection, he looked for inspiration in Christian Dior’s house and the objects that reside within its walls, he adds, underlining the “importance of immersing oneself in the maison archives”. He is not only excited about the prospect of discovering new inspirations; it suits his character as a keen collector. Thousands of rare vinyl records, hundreds of iconic Vivienne Westwood pieces and a rug designed by Francis Bacon are part of his private collection.
"Dior is a very different company than Louis Vuitton"
He has had a multidisciplinary and cosmopolitan vision of the world since his childhood. “I've been traveling since I was 4 years old, I lived in Ecuador ... I've always liked to travel and see new cultures,” says the designer. His globetrotting experiences have shaped his approach to design. “I hate airports and security controls are the worst thing in the world. I am very practical, for me functionality is fundamental, making things easier, ” he adds. “There is a part of the collection that appeals to both men and women. I think it's great if women want to wear my clothes,” he continues.
His way of understanding fashion led him to take over as artistic director of Dior Homme from Kris Van Assche last spring. “Dior is a very different company than Louis Vuitton. I had several options on the table, I wanted a change. I spoke with Pietro Beccari, who is my friend, and Bernard Arnault. In the end, I accepted. The house is an emblem and for a designer it’s a great experience,” he comments, thinking back at a time when some linked him to Versace. “I don’t see my friends as much as I would like to due to my travels and work, but I’m enjoying the experience at Dior.” And he concludes: “I chose Dior because it is the pinnacle of couture in France.”
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