Destination Uncertain

At his first men’s wear show for Dior, Kim Jones did not appear to be taking the brand anywhere


Dior Homme SS 2019 P1

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.

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G1

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G2

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!

Dior hOMME SS 2019 G3

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.

Photos: Dior

It’s Paint!

Dior Homme hand-painted jeans aw 2017Skinny jeans have been enjoying a good, extended run: for more than a decade. Its popularity simply won’t fade. But these days, skinny isn’t quite enough; they’d have to be snug as leggings. Spend an afternoon anywhere along Orchard Road, and you’ll see guys (and girls) in jeans so limb-clinging, they could have been shrink-wrapped on the legs. Indeed, so tight are the fit of them jeans that they are sometimes called “paint on”. What if that’s applied literally?

At Dior Homme, someone is really doing the painting, by hand no less. But we do not think it’s Kris Van Assche getting his hands dirty. His latest jeans for Dior Homme, in very limited quantities, the staff at the store will remind you, looks like a pair left behind by an especially industrious house painter who has only one pair of work pants. The more imaginative among you may think it’s made from a sheet of overused work-site tarpaulin!

These are standard Dior Homme slim-fit, five-pocket jeans on which a surface treatment is applied. As a product of the house of Dior, there is art to the painterly finish. Firstly, it is monochromatic (with shades of grey between black and white), rather like grisaille. Secondly, the informal brush strokes on the cotton twill are applied to form a check effect. Thirdly, the paint has a tactile quality about it—roughness like those of oils or acrylics after they’ve dried naturally.

Dior Homme jeans AW 2016 look 36The hand-painted jeans first seen on the Dior Homme catwalk in January 2016

It’s not clear what paints are used. We can assume it’s not gouache or Dulux water-based. And it doesn’t look varnished. The salesperson wasn’t able to enlighten either, which points to only one way to care for them: do not wash. Never subjecting them to a spin cycle is probably the sensible way to treat this pair of four-figure pants that, on the surface at least, is art.

Caress this frameless, wearable painting and the hand senses the hardness of the top coat. Lifting the jeans up, the uncommon heft is immediately discernible. You are tempted to try them on and you do. These are very stiff jeans, and they’re not easy to put on, especially when they’re skinny too. Once, they’re on, you realise that you may not easily move in them. Climbing up a flight of stairs, you immediately feel, will be tricky. Squatting, you can’t imagine!

This pair of jeans clearly needs time for the wearer to break into, but the process maybe long-drawn since you are not likely going to wear it often or wash it regularly. Still, for the fashionista, it is likely the ultimate pair of jeans, possibly more desirable than Maison Martin Margiela’s low-top sneakers with Jackson Pollock-ish paint splatter.

“Monsieur Dior gone skater boy” was how Mr Van Assche described the mood of the collection to the media back in January after the autumn/winter show. While that is hard to imagine (Monsieur Dior was, after all, rather rotund, and communicated a sartorial sense that can be described as proper), it is not difficult to see that the future in surface treatments of jeans could be thick brush strokes rather than random tears and shreds.

Dior Homme hand-painted cotton twill jeans, SGD2,600, out now at Dior Homme, Ion Orchard. Photos: (top) Jim Sim, (bottom) Dior Homme

The Air In The Soles

Nike Air Max 90 JacquardNike has declared today Air Max Day. The occasion marks 27 years of air-cushioning for the sole. When it was first introduced in 1978, Air Max shoes were a boon to runners who seeked shoes that could dramatically absorb the impact at the heel. In no time, they became popular among members of pop sub-cultures such as hip-hop. Trainer obsessives soon started collecting these shoes too, and issues such as Air Max 95 (the first to feature fully exposed fore-foot air sole) and 97 (with its first full-length air bag) continue to attract collectors, who amassed both vintage and new pairs. The latest version, the Air Max 90 Jacquard (above), continues to build on the sole’s undiminished popularity with new, colour-saturated uppers.

Nike’s Air Max redefined what can go under the foot, and it soon influenced other trainer makers into putting out their own versions. This form of soles has mostly been used by athletic footwear makers until Nike bought over Cole Haan in 1988, when it started introducing air soles for its range of executive footwear.

Prada Vs NikeAlthough armed with the technology, Nike did not quite successfully make Oxfords and the like with a fashion spin that could grab the imagination of fashionistas (Nike sold Cole Haan in 2012, which may spell the end of air soles for the latter). Until Prada—the master of hybrid shoes—came along. Last season, Prada introduced the air-soled ‘Levitate’, and continues to put out new versions with different traditional uppers such as Brogues and loafers. Sneakerheads screamed “copy” but that has not dampened the demand for these stylish shoes.

Mizuno Vs Dior HommeNot to be outdone, Dior Homme, too, created space for air in the soles of their latest shoes. The Derby-style lace-ups—which sales assistants in the store described as “catwalk shoes”—are fitted with metal inserts so as to trap air. It is doubtful if this has any cushioning effect even when some reviewers called them “Air Max-like soles”. They are, in fact, more akin to the Mizuno Wave Prophecy.

Whichever way, to stay afloat in the world of fashion, sometimes you do have to walk on thin air.

Prada ‘Levitate’, SGD1160, is available at Prada Ion Orchard. Dior Homme shoes, SGD1800, are available at Dior Homme Ion Orchard. Nike Air Max 90 Jacquard, SGD239, is available nationwide. Mizuno Wave Prophecy, SGD329, is available at select retailers.