Guys Get Theirs Too

The Dior ‘Saddle’ bag was John Galliano’s contribution to the era of ‘It’ bags. ‘It’, 20 years later, it still is, but now, conversely, among men


Dior Saddle Bag

By Ray Zhang

It was during the Lunar New Year holiday season that the Dior Saddle bag for men was brought into sharp focus for me. I was at a dinner party whose host had just moved into a smallish Geylang apartment, designed to be achingly modern, with a massive marble dinner table that was the talking point, until someone spotted a Saddle, lying lifeless like dismounted saddlery, on an ottoman. One uninitiated guest asked, no one in particular, what it was. The owner of the bag, a middle-aged guy with a serious weakness for luxury bags, lifted the subject like a trophy and said, “it’s a Saddle”.

“What’s a Saddle?”

“It’s a Dior bag”.

“Oh. For guys?”

Never mind the last redundant question. A bag once the domain of women is now arousing curiosity and adoption, among—not a few—men. The It bag has crossed into men’s wear, and by most accounts and observation on the street, acquisition rate is high (unfortunately, figures are not available, but one ION Orchard store clerk told me emphatically that the Saddle is their “best seller”). I’d like to see what it’s like strapped on the body, but the owner of the said bag held on to it as a clutch.

Dior Saddle Bag 2

The Saddle bag made its runway appearance in the third year of John Galliano’s media-dominating stewardship of Dior, during the spring/summer 2000 presentation of punk cowgirls leaving some bordello for a purposeful stride into the sunset. The bags, when they were launched was an instant hit and enjoyed a second wave of popularity after Carrie Bradshaw carried it in Sex and the City. When the trendiness of the Saddle eventually left the Dior stable, its production run ended too. But as with many ‘iconic’ fashion accessories, they were eagerly rediscovered by generation influencer. Not surprising, as many Saddles were ready to be picked up in vintage shops around the globe and on-line at collectible stores such as The Real Real. Then in 2018, Dior did the unforeseeable: it permitted Maria Grazia Chiuri to bring the Saddle back for a ride. Aided by freebies to KOLs who, naturally, IG-ed it, the Saddle was extolled as “an instant hit”.

A year later, Kim Jones re-imagined the Saddle for men. What was once a bag secured under the armpit, with thumb hooked unto the D-shaped charm that was fastened to a front-facing strap—like a stirrup, the guy’s butched-up version is a bum bag wannabe with a broad, single strap that sports a chunky Matthew Williams-design clasp. Like the original, the men’s Saddle is not a terribly capacious bag. Bulky items such as battery charger or even a fat wallet stored within may cause bumps to appear on what should be a flat case. Think not gym gear. When I did eventually strap the Saddle on in a Dior store, I was tempted to re-christen it Holster. In the end, its victim-encouraging trendiness immediately— and totally—discouraged adoption.

Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Dior’s Floridian Escapade

It’s Miami for Dior menwear’s super early autumn/winter 2020 show, and it is neither spice nor vice


Dior AW 2020 P1.jpg

It must be a thing with LVMH: associating themselves with USA. They’ve just acquired Tiffany and, last month, Louis Vuitton made a showy appearance to open their state-side factory in Alvarado, Texas. Now, fashion’s favourite son Kim Jones is staging his Dior men’s wear collection for autumn/winter in the unlikely, sun-drenched city of Miami. That does not include other associations with America, such as the appointment of Virgil Abloh as creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear and the backing of Rihanna (sure, she’s Barbadian, but also an American citizen) to launch her own RTW, Fenty. It’s uncertain what all this means, or if anything at all.

As noteable: the timing of the Dior show is not only outside of the Paris men’s fashion week calendar, it is also unusually early. On that point, we’re a little confused. Dior’s website dates the show as “Fall 2020”, and Kim Jones himself posted on IG visuals that showed what is possibly invitations that said “Fall 2020”, but some media reports tagged it as “Pre-Fall 2020”. Come January, perhaps we’ll know for sure. In any case, fashion seasons are, of course, getting more confusing, possibly inconsequential: couture in November (Valentino, Beijing), fall drops in June, end-of-season sales in October. But who’s tracking? If fashion is increasingly trans-border, it too can be trans-season.

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Dior AW 2020 G2.jpg

Kim Jones’s interpretation of fall is specious as well. Nary a thick coat (sure, they’re mostly cashmere) and plenty of shorts, it isn’t surprising that some thought it to be a pre-season collection, sometimes also known as ‘cruise’, but usually nothing to do with what you might pack for one. Could it be because of its Miami location that Mr Jones conceived a collection that seems to be a nod to the eroding shores of the city, it’s laid-back vibe of the day and hedonistic excess of night? Those running shorts (already explored by Nicholas Ghesquière in the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2018 collection) and printed tops could certainly be worn to any of Miami’s swinging bar and club.

Towards the last part of the show, a model emerges in a T-shirt emblazoned with a thought bubble that says “I want to shock the world with Dior”. Can fashion still shock? Kim Jones is not a known shocker. Among the British designers, he does not have the quirkiness of JW Anderson, not the edge of Craig Green, nor the disquiet of Gareth Pugh. Mr Jones is a commercial designer, who uses hype with the same flair as others using off-placed seams. Often times, his clothes are rather basic, repetitive too, but on the runway, they enjoy the sly advantage of enthusiastic styling.

This season, the models are well kitted out and accessorised. There is a bag on almost every arm (or chest, in the manner of the chest rig)—the Saddle Bag again prominent. Not missing, too, are neck wear, head wear, and even drop earring of cowrie on each left lobe (not right—they’d be too gay, we were told). While this is not a showy collection, there are prints that can be considered fancy to keep things interesting: African-ish patterns of psychedelic fervour matched with animal prints, the usual repeated logos (also scribbles), and florals and checks. And beaded camp shirts (and, yes, camp)! There is nothing stern in the looks, and therein, perhaps, lies the appeal to those who are partial to such affected cheeriness.

Dior AW 2020 G3

True to form, Mr Jones is playing up the King of Collaboration accolade to the hilt (for Dior, there has already been KAWS and Raymond Pettibone, just to name two). This time, it’s with Shawn Stussy of the surf-wear-turn-streatwear brand Stüssy, which the founder has not been involved with since 1996. It isn’t clear what part he plays in the collaboration, and it requires tremendous scrutiny to discern his touch—reimagining the Dior font and bee. Stüssy’s early offerings were dubbed “Californian lifestyle” clothing, which may have had the same ring as “Calabasas style”, but how does the deeply casual augment Dior’s couture sportswear (or should that be streetwear)?

Apart from a certain feeling that has less to do with a historic city such as Paris than the pleasure-seeking rush of Miami, there is nothing obvious about the duo’s ho-hum output. Point is, the streetwear bubble isn’t going to burst any time soon and the bubble-up effect is still, well, bubbling. The fashion pack is too into it. Dressed-up have found a chum in the casual. About his brand, Mr Stussy said, in 1992, that “everybody calls it surf wear, or urban streetwear, or surf street… I don’t name it, and I don’t name it on purpose.” That must be strategic. Or he wouldn’t end up pairing with Dior.

Photos: (top/screen grab) Dior/(runway) Isidore Montag/