Kim Jones’s second presentation for Dior reminds us of the 1980 Ultravox song. “The turbine cracked up/The buildings froze up/The system choked up/What can we do?”
What can we do? When it was released, Ultravox’s All Stood Still, the final track on the first Midgre Ure-fronted Vienna and no. 8 on the UK singles chart, could, by listening to it again, possibly be about paralysis as a result of the failure of things around you, including technology, which was, of course, not what it is today. Was Kim Jones then also saying something about a flop—the failure of fashion?—when he required no walking from the models of the show? Of course we’re speculating, but it is possible, no?
The glum-as-usual models of Dior’s autumn/winter 2019 show must be the envy of the rest not included. When was the last time you saw a fashion show when models need not flex a muscle to move in order to effect the action we know as walking? The travelator that brought each from point A to B could be something on loan from Changi Airport! Still and not being unique (such as strutting oddly), the guys’ immobility was good for those of us who want to look at the clothes closely and clearly. And we sure did.
Kim Jones has always been a designer with a point of view informed by the things happening around him. When he held the reigns at Louis Vuitton (Men), he was mirroring the times rather than actually designing to put an aesthetic mark on the brand the way his predecessor at Dior, Kris Van Assche had. But Dior is a storied house, and, typical of legacy brands, it requires a better-defined look—to put it simply—that would encourage loyalty in shoppers. In this collection, Mr Jones has created something distinctive and appealing, with couture underscoring the supreme quality of the clothes and a discernible aesthetical sum that will score with those who stick to a brand that is uniquely identifiable. There seems to be a deliberate step away from mass/hypebeast appeal.
Alluring, too, is the tailoring. This season, a certain softness characterises the construction, with sashes to soften the suits and coats even further. We vaguely remember Mr Jones’s tailoring flair during his Dunhill days. Now his skill is even more evident as he puts the Dior’s tailleur facility to truly good use, creating silhouettes that have little semblance to professional garb (the play of matte and soft shine, for example), which may draw the younger set of Dior customers as the brand intended to when they reassigned Mr Van Assche (to Berluti).
Apart from the tailoring, there’s a calculated minimalism about the overall styling that may be a deliberate reaction on the part of Mr Jones against our myopic focus on the increasing meretriciousness of streetwear. Sophisticated comes to our mind as we write this. You probably have a better word. But the point is, Dior this season looks decidedly grown up, without anything Kaw-ish as the brand’s likely quick-to-expire UPI. In that sense, it reminds us of the the excellent work of Luke Meier (one half of the duo currently behind Jil Sander) for his label OAMC. Sure, Mr Jones’s use of harnesses and straps may be gimmicky even if they are masculinity-affirming (as opposed to skirts), but it doesn’t detract from the compelling elegance that stood out.
Mr Jones’s first collection for Dior did not quite move us. This time, there is something we can’t quite put our finger on, something that has design heft and visual strength, something that, we hope, has staying power.