At his first men’s wear show for Dior, Kim Jones did not appear to be taking the brand anywhere
Two anticlimactic debuts in a row! Is this turning out to be the dullest men’s wear season of recent years despite the big-name hype? Expectations were high for Kim Jones’s remake of Dior (Homme now removed)—much higher than there was for Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton. The letdown, however, was more pronounced because for some of us, seating patiently for the live stream, the Kaws-conceived staging, including their famous BFF character, so colossal that even the Oscar at his tallest wasn’t so imposing, was sadly not prelude to something equally striking.
Regular show goers always say that you’d know if you want to go on watching a presentation by how the first five outfits wowed you. The men’s Dior spring/summer 2019’s didn’t: its initial quintet was remarkable for being unremarkable. The very first jacket immediately had us in a oh-no mood: the contrast sleeve and paneling so typical of what fashion students will turn out when they have to present something ‘designed’. Or, when Savile Row wants to do something young and against what the masters taught, much like tailors elsewhere, in fact,
If you decided to stay with the show, as we did, you’d have also seen baseball-style jackets and other kindred blousons that on a body not less young—a lot less—will look decidedly uncle, not, as current fashion adores, dad. And here is our problem with the designs of Kim Jones. It is something that has bugged us for a while. Back when he was directing LV’s men’s wear, the clothes may look interesting from afar, but were far from interesting when seen up-close. On the catwalk, they had the advantage of the wearer’s youthful swagger and imperturbable indifference, but in the stores, unstyled, they look ready for the wardrobes of unimaginably wealthy Indonesian bapaks. Or land-owing Chinese tuhaos. Mr Jones appears not to have completely pulled away from what he had made a habit of when he was designing for Dunhill from 2008 to 2011.
It can be argued that the Dior customer is young, cultivated since Hedi Slimane’s tenure, so it does not matter that the clothes appear suited to a particular demographic. When you look adolescent, you can get away with clothes that don’t. But shouldn’t clothes stand on their own merit, untethered to the age of the wearer? Perhaps Mr Jones is re-calibrating the clothes-to-wearer’s-age relation and now prefers to target the post-post-teen set since, as he indicated to the media, he is no longer pursuing the craze for street style.
Some people suggested that this is the next wave of men’s wear—a return to more tailored silhouettes or, at least, one that is diametrically different to street fashion. According to what was reported by WWD, Mr Jones “has mined the Dior archives for inspiration related to the women’s couture heritage of the house”. There’s something to note there because over at Maison Margiela’s first ‘artisanal’ collection for men shown days earlier, John Galliano seemed to be working on the same premise. Mr Galliano has even introduced the bias cut that he excels in for men, perhaps as a deliberate rebuff of Off-White and co’s—generally fashion’s—street leanings.
All the display of refined tailoring still needed to be tempered by elements that reflect on-the-ground reality. You can’t really turn your back on the street when all around you, guys seem rooted to the style roadway over-trodden by sneakers and all the clothes that stand opposite to the craft associated with shirts and suits. Mr Jones engaged the assistance of Yoon Ahn of the street wear label Ambush, originally a fine jewellery brand, to design the accessories. What should have been left to Virgil Abloh to use with abandon was instead adopted by Mr Jones: those chunky, loved-by-hip-hop-stars chain-necklaces, now with a new CD clasp, which at a quick glance nearly passed off as Ferragamo’s logo buckle!
On closer look, the CDs, designed by fellow Brit Matthew Williams (of the hotly trending label Alyx Studio), were chunkier and had industrial (aeronautical perhaps?) written all over it. They remind us that, while Mr Jones may try to steer his Dior towards a look more akin to couture, logo mania is not dead. In fact, just like many kiasu kids of today, some of the models sported not one but two sets of the logo—one centred on the forehead, the other, directly below, on the waist. Could this be really the way forward for fashion or was this duplication of a visual identity that has brought tremendous success for LV? Balance sheets, as we are well aware, do inform design choices.
The Dior logotype too appeared: in the form of the recognisable repeated type, as seen on the undershirts. These were hardly subtle, but that’s the point. Just as there was nothing discreet about lining that looked like shorts under what presumably were linen pants. Nor the Saddle handbag (Dior’s most successful style under John Galliano’s watch), now re-imagined as bumbag and such for blokes. And just in case the relaxed suits (even the one-button asymmetric style) were still a tad stuffy, there were the singlets. We were instantly reminded that Kim Jones had once collaborated with Umbro. He may have set a “new course” for Dior, as the media proclaimed after the show, but you can’t be certain of the landing for there is still the lad in the couture-delving designer. However promising the present, you never know what lads will end up doing. Or dreaming.