Postponed: Dior X Travis Scott

It is reported that the launch of the doomed collaboration would be deferred. Nope, not cancelled

That one of the most hyped collaborations has to come to this is not surprising. As announced on WWD, Dior’s collaboration with Travis Scott—dubbed Cactus Jack—is “postponed”, the news site emphasised, and “indefinitely”. As stated in the report, based on an “exclusive” statement that Dior availed to WWD: “out of respect for everyone affected by the tragic events at Astroworld, Dior has decided to postpone indefinitely the launch of products from the Cactus Jack collaboration originally intended to be included in its summer 2022 collection.” They were careful not to use the now-divisive and unpleasant word “cancelled”.

As we understand it, the men’s spring/summer collection is almost “entirely” conceived with Mr Scott. For many, it is inconceivable that a complete collection would not be available to purchase. WWD reported that Mr Scott’s team shared that the postponement was a mutual agreement. Dior did not say what merchandise plans would be in place for their spring/summer 2022 season. This is their first time pairing with a musician, and reports had predicted it to be “major”. Merchandisers we spoke to told us that at the time the Astroworld tragedy struck, it is likely that the clothes were already in production. And that is very possible since spring/summer drops can take place as early as this week, or next.

Many of those who commented on the emerging reports of the postponed collection felt that Travis Scott is wrongly blamed for the Astroworld deaths and that the brands were too quick to disassociate themselves with him, once a star who could do no wrong. One commentator wrote in response to a Hypebeast post, “He isn’t responsible for the actions of thousands of fans, even if they can prove he incited raucous behavior.” Die-hard Travis Scott fans are also burning with curiousity: What would become of the already produced merchandise. Burn them? Or let them be available at a discount store?

Runway photo: Dior. Photo illustration: Just So

Hint Of The Literary

Dior’s next season for men is inspired by the American novelist Jack Kerouac. Kim Jones is again a wanderer

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars” — On the Road: the Original Scroll, Jack Kerouac

The next season’s collections are showing earlier and earlier. Sure, the end-of-season sales have begun, but we have not celebrated Christmas. Yet, somehow brands are certain that we like seeing what we might desire to wear (at least) nine months later. Dior’s fall 2020 (with some reports labelling it as a “pre-collection”) appears just a day ago, and around the same time as the collection shown in Florida in 2019, also labelled “fall”. Based on the absence of winter coats, it is quite certain that the autumn/winter season will be staged in January next year. And, with the show brought to London, we can be quite certain that the not-in-Paris showing is resort/cruise/pre-whatever. Does it really matter? Would we remember?

Kim Jones may have brought the fall 2022 collection back to his home in London, but for the clothes, he had America in mind. A very specific America, based on the work of the Beat-Gen novelist/poet Jack Kerouac, whose contemporaries include Allen Ginsburg and William S Burroughs. Mr Jones’s fascination with the writers of literary movements first manifested itself early this year with his debut Fendi haute couture collection, which was inspired by the British Bloomsbury Group, a set that included Virginia Woolf, which prompted the press to suggest that he brought “Virginia Woolf chic to Paris”. There was nothing Woolfian about that collection. Similarly, it would be hard to find anything Kerouacian about the latest Dior.

But, Americana is evident. It is, however, not the Americana that Raf Simons imagined for Calvin Klein when he briefly designed for the label. Nor, Stuart Vevers’s for Coach. Mr Jones approach is more, shall we say, an amalgam of sources, not necessarily from the author of On the Road himself, who was not especially noted for his sartorial strength, even if he was considered a “looker”. Prior to attaining fame as a writer, Jack Kerouac was a sportsman (he played [American] football in college, before he dropped out), a gas station attendant, a construction worker, and, very briefly, a marine.

Mr Jones had elements of workwear in the collection, but a few pieces looked to be inspired by what Junya Watanabe has been doing for years, including the contrast-coloured straps on the outers. Or those blazers with contrast utility pockets an additional shirt placate. Even those Fair Isle sweaters, were they not explored in Mr Watanabe’s current autumn/winter collection? Sure, there is a vague ’50s vibe in the collection, but missing is the certain roughness—aided by sex, drugs and jazz—that unabashedly described and played up in On the Road. The only literal association is the set of the show: a reported 80-metre long scroll that represents Mr Kerouac’s own 120 feet (36.5m) long manuscript for On the Road, that according to lore, was written in three weeks.

The Dior fall 2022 collection does not appear to be put together in such a haste. And, that, to us, is perhaps why it looks so inauthentic. To be fair, it is one of Mr Jones’s better collection, but if the Beat Generation is noted for their waywardness and rebelliousness, the clothes seem too composed and calculated, and devoid of the risk-willing and devil-may-care attitudes of the youths that one sees from reading Jack Kerouac. Was there too much concern with the street to be aware of being on the road? There is no denying that Mr Jones’s Dior embraces elegance, but some styles appear to be from the Giorgio Armani play book, in particular look 39—the mocha-coloured, asymmetric, stand-collared leather jacket (itself seemingly like a fitted take of a vintage Swedish army motorcycle jacket), teamed with mottled grey wool pants. To strengthen the likeness, the model wore a beanie and a pair of sunglasses. Search as we have, no image of Jack Kerouac came to us that way.

In On the Road, Mr Kerouac wrote: ”The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles.” We are not hoping that Mr Jones—or Dior—become this mad (although that would be great), but we really wish to see something burn, even if just a flicker.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Dior

Sicko Mode: The Destructive Force Of Travis Scott

The Washington Post called him “the maestro directing the chaos”. After this year’s Astroworld mahem, Travis Scott will forever be linked to the death of some of his rabid fans. Who would remember his connection to the world of fashion? Do we want to?

Warning: this post contains language and descriptions some readers might find offensive

Nike has made the first move, but Dior has largely kept mum. In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, it is doubtful that Travis Scott’s very name can still move merchandise, massively. But his fashion collaborators seem to prefer to wait and see. Nike held on for more than a week before announcing that their collaboration with Mr Scott’s Cactus Jack brand on the Air Max 1 will be postponed “out of respect for everyone impacted by the tragic events at the Astroworld Festival”, according to a corporate statement issued on its SKRS app a few days ago. Delaying the launch is not canning it. At the moment, it is known that Nike has some ten styles in the works with Mr Scott. That is a staggering amount to do with a single fellow, without counting those already released and sold out, a sell-through situation no brand can resist. How long more does the owner of Air Max intend to wait is not known.

Also in with Nike’s now-troubled partnership is Japan’s Fragment Design. As we have noted before, collaborations these days can consist of three brands (or more), not just two. To triple the allure of the initial pairing, Fragment Design joined Nike and Travis Scott three months ago to reimagine not only the Air Jordan 1, but also to put out a three-piece apparel collection (that was, as expected, sold out), which Nike described as one “that satisfies the ‘rule of three’”. Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design has not issued a statement with regards to his past pairing with Mr Scott or future partnerships. His association with the rapper now under investigation, it seems, would not be severely affected as Fragment Design is still associated with credible, fashion-forward brands such as Sacai.

But perhaps the label that has to really deal with the increasing ignominy of the rapper is Dior. Hitherto, the LVMH super brand has not uttered a word about what has happened, nor the pal of Mr Scott, Kim Jones. It is known that Mr Jones had conceived the spring/summer 2021 collection almost entirely to benefit from Travis Scotts’s fame, more as a consumer rather than designer of fashion. In fact, the collab was dubbed Cactus Jack Dior, after the rapper’s own Cactus Jack Foundation. The first drop will likely appear next month, but would it have any pull? There is no doubt that, there would be those shoppers who will still bite not matter how contentious the sale of such a collaboration would be. The question is, how would Dior play down the fact they paired with a performer whose concert reportedly resulted in the death of nine people and who apparently went on singing even when attendees were screaming for the show to be stopped? Or is it too late in the progression of the production of the line to stop now? According to a WWD report two days ago, Dior is merely “evaluating the situation”.

It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music

Dior’s predicament, if it sees itself in one, does open the postern into the persistent creative pair-ups between luxury brands and mega-successful stars that frequently ditch true design for brazen hype. It is often said that Travis Scott’s style “is as popular as his music”, admired globally, but no one can say with certainty that his talent in design is tantamount to that of his music. Or, that he understands what it takes to put a piece of clothing—any—together. The ability to dress himself in some semblance of what is deemed fashion overrides practical ability or manual dexterity. Popularity alone is often enough for brands to want to be associated him, from Bape to Saint Laurent. The merchandise, one Gen-Z fan described on Quora, “goes higher and higher in value just like brands like Supreme. Our generation loves that. We love status symbols.” That Travis Scott is a “status symbol by which the social standing of the possessor of his goods could be derived/assessed is not unusual—even if staggering—when consumers are eager to surrender to the power and prevarication of social media influence.

Mr Scott’s status in fashion is so lofty that collaborator Nike would even allow him to tamper with the Swoosh, a trademark so entrenched in popular consciousness that it would normally be considered sacrilegious to meddle with. In the Air Jordan 1 and the Air Max 1, to name just two, the Swoosh is placed as a mirror image on the sides of the shoes—the longer, narrower end does not emerge from the heel notch, close to the collar. While no Tinker Hatfield, he was able to have leeway to do as he pleases. It did not occur to Nike that it could perhaps be more convincing if he were to create a totally new silhouette, like mentor Kanye West has with the Yeezys. Could that be indication that Travis Scott has scant design flair?

Most alluring for both fans and some members of the media is his personal style. Last year, Esquire called him “a tastemaker par excellence second to none”. The taste, CR Fashion Book wrote, “typically features vintage t-shirts, denim, baseball cap, relaxed joggers, oversized jackets with bold brands like the Louis Vuitton LV logo or bright colors like pink and Nike sneakers”. Esquire also stated that Mr Scott “tends to stick to a few variations on the same theme when it comes to getting dressed, at least casually”. How all that is sufficient to allow him to be a trendsetter or dip his hands in the process of design is not clear. As the Rolling Stones correctly noted, “for close to a decade, Travis Scott has carefully positioned himself squarely at the center of hype”. He barely traipses into the unconventional, let alone groundbreaking. For sure, no dresses/skirts of A$AP Rocky or Andre 3000 for him. At the 2019 “Camp” Met Gala, he skipped the theme entirely, appearing in a brown Dior top and pants, with what appeared to be military webbing. Camp? Perhaps to those going from Ah Boys to Men.

From left to right: Cactus Jack Dior spring/summer 2022, Nike X Travis Scott X Fragment T-shirt, and Nike X Travis Scott Air Max 270 ‘Cactus Trails’. Photos: Respective brands

Although Mr Scott is known to encourage reckless behaviours during his performances and has, in fact, faced two charges before the Dior show in June for “disorderly conduct”, the French house did not see that their star collaborator’s brush with the law would be problematic or a blemish to their impeccable couture suits. In 2015, Mr Scott had allegedly urged his unthinking fans to climb over barricades at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, leading the repetitive shout, “we want rage”. According to media reports, the scene was so tumultuous that the police had to detain the rapper after just five minutes into his performance, but he fled. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charges. In 2017, during a concert in Arkansas, he again encouraged “rage”—so rapidly it escalated that the police accused him of “inciting a riot”. Just weeks after that, one of his concerts in Manhattan was said to be so riotous that a fan fell off a balcony and was left paralyzed after suffering a fractured vertebrae. Mr Scott was often quoted saying in past performances, “it’s not a show until someone passes out”. Does that apply to the fashion he peddles? Is raging and the resultant injuries, if not death, compatible with the culture of clothes?

Despite his disturbing track record, no one anticipated the tragedy of Astroworld. Earlier that fateful day, before the 500,000 concert goers stormed the NRG Park, Mr Scott released a single ironically called Escape Plan in which he rapped, “but wait, it opened gates and this shit just start paradin’, olé (Let’s go)”. While we are not certain what “it” refers to, the rest of the sentence seems to preempt the disaster that struck Astroworld. As much as this is considered a hackneyed view, rap music does seem to laud destructive behaviour. Mr Scott’s own lyrics don’t negate violence and such. In the 2018 release Sicko Mode, Drake used the expression to introduce his friend in the song: “Young La Flame, he in sicko mode”. The phrase, it is believed, refers to the rager mentality that Mr Scott encourages (his fans are known as “sickos”), with clear consequence now. But more than that, death was suggested too: “And they chokin’, man, know the crackers wish it was a noose”.

Born Jacques Bermon Webster II, Travis (also TRavi$) Scott and his rap contemporaries make and break in equal measure. However, some, such as Mr Scott, just more destructively than others. Stars are cancelled for saying and doing stupid things, but he, for whom inciting his fans to “free the rage” characterise him as a performer, is often lauded. In fact, after the Arkansas drama in 2017, he dropped a T-shirt on his website with those three words printed on the back. Unsurprisingly, they sold out. Now ensconced in his Houston “retreat”, Mr Scott seems to be waiting for the rage of the community to abate. How did he, a college dropout, become this powerful? Not that much, in fact, is known about him other than the rebelliousness with a rock-star stance that seems to have served him in good stead. Uncontrollable is a credo, a virtue, a merit. But, if social media is to be believed, many are now ready to denounce the unstoppable rager-rapper. Is Dior, then, brave enough to douse La Flame? And rip out Cactus Jack?

Illustration and collage: Just So

Taste: It’s Good When It Isn’t

Refined and impeccable taste: Have they become so boring that going the opposite way is now far more appealing? Recent trends—and events—have made us wonder: is bad really better?

In a recent article about the rise in the popularity of wellies, the Guardian described the boots mostly associated with rain wear as “bad taste”. And it’s in the headline! Wellington boots, to call them by their proper, more tasteful English name, have a long history—whether illustrious or not, we can’t say. They go back to the early 1800s, and are associated with the British aristocracy. The footwear is, in fact, named after the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. The good Duke was a military man and a Tory statesman. In fact, the chap served as prime minister not once, but twice. We do not know if he was an aesthete, but since he ruled over a dukedom, he probably had refined sensitivity towards his sartorial choices. Yet, the trusty wellies that he popularised, as well as their descendants (Bottega Veneta calls theirs by the positively low-brow ‘puddle boots’) are now associated with taste that’s not anywhere near good.

It does not require deep knowledge of current affairs to know that ‘ugly’ is, for more than half of the decade, not the ugly that we know. Ugly, the cousin of bad taste, is attractive; ugly is good; ugly is cool. We were even told that ugly wasn’t a passing fad. And it is true; it is still a trend! Ugly has redefined what is flattering just as much as it has changed what is considered attractive. In fact, chances are attractive is really not. Yet, it now encompasses so many aspect of contemporary tastes that even awful is in the jumble. And there is a word for it: inclusive. Or, the fake synonym, diverse. Both let ugly into the club. Ugly is dancing and winning. Now, if you refer to ugly in the negative, you’d have ugly-shamed! Ugly is so influential (in digital life, is influential synonymous with ugly?), it brought bad taste in too.

The thing about bad taste is that it needs it’s competitor good taste. Without good taste, bad taste won’t be that bad. One isn’t the mirror image of the other, but one can see what the other is not. It isn’t the bad that’s so bad it’s good. It’s bad that makes good look its part. What would Cinderella be without the bad—er, ugly—stepsisters? Would Cinderella stand out? Was it not the Fairy Godmother who gave her everything she needed that had some semblance of good taste? But what the Fairy Godmother created for her so that she could go to the good-taste ball came from the opposite of good: the footmen from mice, the driver of the coach from a frog, and the ball gown from rags! Oh, there is, of course, the coach; it was a pumpkin transformed, not a Yubari King melon!!!

Graphics om the Balenciaga ‘The Simpsons’ T-shirt. Product photo: Balenciaga

Fashion these days is hemorrhaging so much bad taste that it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore it as aberration that will vanish the next season. More and more, we can’t wish it away. It keeps coming at you, like mosquitoes on warm and humid days. Sometimes in ways you won’t expect. We are not hyperventilating. The Simpsons of every-town America, Springfield, for example, are not fashion darlings. As Matt Groening told the Smithsonian magazine in 2012, “I thought Simpson was a funny name in that it had the word ‘simp’ in it, which is short for “simpleton’”. But thanks to Balenciaga—the fearless bender of taste, the family of five are fashion icons. Is any of the Simpsons, now in Balenciaga and on Balenciaga, the epitome of good taste? Even poor Lisa Simpsons looks like a misguided 2nd grader who spends too much money on Shein, pearl choker intact. The Simpsons in Balenciaga seem to suggest that taste, like mood and marriages, can change overnight.

Balenciaga of the present, of course, straddles good and bad tastes, but oftentimes with one foot firmly planted in the latter. Their pairing with the Simpsons maybe irony at its highest order, but is it good taste? Or is this a sure reminder that so many people, like Homer Simpson, simply have no taste until someone comes along and gives them some. Not that Homer Simpson would be able to tell what is good or bad taste. In the case of the Balenciaga makeover of the residents of Springfield, it really depends on luck. But Balenciaga is increasingly able to make make bad taste better, so much so that it becomes good bad taste, or, as some might call it, “impeccable”. Example: Crocs. And recently it shows that on the runway or red carpet, bad taste can walk both. But with their haute couture revived, who’d dare say that Balenciaga is the arbiter of bad taste? Just badder?

Sometimes bad taste comes in the clever guise of ‘eclectic’. This eclectic is a parody of bad taste, often with kitsch as a partner in crime, and the devil around the two. That it might be steep in historicism does not take away bad-taste-as-eclectic’s parodic heft. The pied piper of this constantly jokey, retro-tinged pastiche is Gucci. Like stablemate Balenciaga, Gucci has made bad taste impossibly good, even gauche, galvanising the glaring and the glamourous into action. But few drawn to Gucci see the parody, nor, to be sure, the bad taste. When overexposed to such bad taste, we become immune to it. Bad-taste eclectic has a special—even sexual—power over those seeking fashion that looks like fashion. The nouveaux, like part of China’s social class tuhao (土豪), as well as the new-to-fashion are especially drawn to eclectic, like the proverbial magpie to shiny things. Or, a scene we get to see, flying termites to street lamps!

Chanel’s attempt at bad taste as seen on Lily Rose Depp in a recent campaign

When Balenciaga leads others follow. Bad taste is so potent that many can’t resist its pull, like boba tea. Chanel, once the epitome of good taste, is now moving away from it, baring so much underwear (above), just to name one transgression, that it would be considered bad taste just three pandemic-unheard years ago. Even Lily Rose Depp in the fall campaign couldn’t reverse the course. In fact, none of them nubile young things could. Blackpink’s Jisoo in the promo video Exploring Dior with Jisoo, expressed no taste, good or bad, when she saw the clothes; she was only able to utter, “I love this… I love this… Oh my god, I love this”. Is good taste daft? Chanel and its ilk joined the circus, but others have always been the ringmasters from the start. All-out bad taste at Dolce & Gabbana (including their marketing communication) keeps it in the spotlight. Others may fare less triumphantly but are no less trending, such as Roberto Cavalli and Virgil Abloh’s also-designer/DJ pal Heston Preston. Even to be named the “King of Bad Taste”, as Philipp Plein has, is an accolade. Zoolander, it seemed, saw the future.

To be sure, the Guardian isn’t the first to have ‘bad taste’ in its headline. Vogue, ever the seer of the future, already declared in 2018 that “Bad Taste Is the Best Thing to Happen to Fashion”. It did not conceal its enthusiasm for looks that were “about the hodgepodge style of looking like you don’t care at all coming into fashion”. But of course they cared (and still do), and the media continually shines a spotlight on bad taste, sending it on its inexorable rise. They do this by featuring the many artistes and celebrities, for whom bad taste is also the passport to ‘cred’, such as the Beibers, as well as so many American artistes-turned-whatever. Hip-hop stars have a big part in the rapid rise of bad taste. Whether by designing stuff or wearing them to effect insider advantage and cool, the sum of which frequently courts bad taste. But it isn’t just American stars who succumbed to taste aligned with bad. The Berlin rapper UFO361, a proponent, who attended the Balenciaga couture show, enthused in Stay High, “Nobody rocked Balenciaga. Crazy man. Long live Demna”. Ditto bad taste?

Perhaps bad taste is still taste, and in the world of fashion, it is increasingly better to have some taste than no taste. As the English novelist Arnold Bennett wrote in the Evening Standard in 1930, (even back then) “good taste is better than bad taste, but bad taste is better than no taste”. Although Mr Bennett was commentating on literary taste, what he said is just as applicable to much of today’s culture, not just fashion. In fact, bad taste is so much better that we have become used to it, and to the point it isn’t bad anymore. For many here, bad taste is who are: this is how we dress and behave. Accept it! And who even calls out bad taste when they can wallow in the repository of bad taste—TikTok, even YouTube? Has social media accelerated the consumption of bad taste? Its widespread use has certainly put bad taste persistently visible online. Bad taste manifests in not just what we wear, but in how we behave, in how we speak, in how we write, in the expletives we prefer, in the division we sow, in the crassness we consume, in the asinine jokes we rollick through, and in the private lives we expose—all delightfully. Even the most ardent among the promulgators of bad taste have become the arbiters of good taste. And our appetites only grow. And grow.

Illustrations by Just So

The Fake Good

Lame designs can be instructive: they convince very few

The one thing consistent about Dior under Maria Grazia Chiuri’s watch, apart from unstoppable sheer skirts, is a design sensibility that does not arouse the senses. In a word, banal. Or, another, closer to social-media speak: blah. In fact, it’s hard to find a description not the opposite of dull. Fashion professionals always avoid using the three-letter B-word. So we shall, too. But when we run out of synonyms, what are our options, really? Sure, being Dior, the vêtements are not crummy per se. But as designs not more expressive than just clothes, even if they are well-executed, can we honestly resist the simple lousy? Dior’s spring/summer 2022 show is high on colour, but why is it so low on excitement? So young, but so without spirit? So sporty, yet so enervated? It can be imagined that many women would find much of the styles “cute”, but how does cuteness really advance the house that, for so long, has been associated with grown-up sophistication?

Ms Chiuri has been described as being at the “apex” of her career. A woman designing for women, a mother with a daughter as “cultural advisor” in the same office, a feminist unafraid to speak her mind, she has the ambassadorial advantage to effect a more design-forward influence. Yet, her output is largely a commercial exercise. It is mostly devoid of wit or flair, superscribed by big hits such as the seen-everywhere (and much copied) Book tote, and pitched for gushing reviews, whether they are truthful or not. Or, for the survival instincts of reviewers such as Suzy Menkes, who gleefully posted on Instagram that Ms Chiuri has “a particular skill in picking out the spirit of the moment”. Wow!

What could this “spirit of the moment” be at Dior for next spring and summer? Immediately discernible is the throw-back to the ’60s, with a go at the colour wheel. There are mini-skirts, complete with go-go boots, and whatever screaming girls used to wear when they thronged to meet their idol-band, The Beatles. But the reference point, to be more exact, is Marc Bohan’s Slim-Line collection of 1961. Youthquake(!), but nothing trembling with newness, let alone innovation. Wait not for the aftershocks for once the season is over, you’ll find it hard to remember any of the pieces. Definitely not those vaguely modish mini this, mini that, the numerous “cute” skirt-suits (some with shorts or culottes), and those ringer-style tank-dresses! Curious is the septet of unflattering separates that seem to mimic boxing wear (like in Milan, there are bras to go with the shirts and shorts, under which are unnecessary skin-coloured base garments), and even more baffling is the white union suit that could have been Baby Gap made for grown-ups. Or, to borrow from Karl Lagerfeld referring to sweatpants in 2013, “a sign of defeat”.

While other houses such as Saint Laurent proudly wear their Frenchness on their sleeves, Dior does not, and is, in fact, becoming more, er, Italian? Or Roma, the place of Ms Chiuri’s birth? Is this her strategy? Seems so. The scenography is conceived by compatriot, Anna Paparatti, considered a key figure in the Roman art scene of the ’60s, who created the set based on the Roman night spot of the same era, Piper Club (which still exists!), thought to be the city’s own Studio 54 back then, while the soundtrack is sung live by the Italian indie electro-pop band II Quadro di Troisi, attempting Italo-disco in considerably lesser beats per minute. What should we take away from all this? Viva Roma?

Photos: Dior

Can Products Be Overbranded?

Apparently not. Dior shows that there really can be no limit to the use of their name and initials

Kiasuism has hit luxury brands, in particular Dior. Sure, we have seen before the unceasing use of their logos and monograms on much of what they make, but we have yet to see branding so concentrated in a single product, as the above sunglasses, the Blue Dior Oblique Pilot, also known as the CD Link A1U. When paired with their Sunglasses Cord and the Dior X Kenny Scharf T-shirt, as shown in the photo above, you’ll have the full Dior, visually. Or, full of Dior? Is nothing too much? Or, too obvious? Discreet is not fashionable, Dior seems to be telling us, and the world needs not to know what you are wearing, but who. Not even the ’80s and ’90s were there such overuse of logos. It is no longer your good ’ol logomania. Dior is paving the way for hypermania.

We thought the proliferation of logos peaked at the end of the ’90s. We were so wrong. The love of logos never went away, but it has, in recent years, become more pronounced and the presence of the attendant products overwhelming. And even more so during a pandemic. We remember going to the Dior men’s store last year, shortly before Christmas, and was really taken aback to see virtually no product without a visible font or symbol of their trademark. We remember asking ourselves, will designers be hired if they are not good at using logos other than for labels? Is fashion design increasingly about logo placement?

Just look at the pilot sunglasses. The CD Link A1U would look like most aviators if not for its patterned lenses. Do people love Dior so much that they wish to be seen with the Dior Oblique monogram for eyes? Apparently so. According to the brand’s marketing material, the “blue lenses feature a silver mirrored Dior Oblique motif to complete the urban sunglasses”. Motif? Branded! We do not know, if looking through them from the other side, we’d see the possibly headache-inducing logo feast, but this shade sure goes with B23 high-tops. More to match if they are crucial to the look. (Despite the tonal difference on the lenses, they offer 100% UVA/UVB protection). If the logo-ed up lenses is still discreet, the metal arm of the glasses sport “an openwork ‘CD’ signature”. So that no one would mistake it for LV?

Of course to strengthen the branding and to “lend the finishing touch to any pair of glasses”, you’d have to attach the eyewear to the Dior Sunglasses Cord. And in case no one knows what ‘CD’ stands for, it is all spelled out in full caps with clear reverse-white, sans-serif font on the polyester nylon jacquard lanyard. On the “silver-finish metal lobster clasp”, the four-letter brand name is engraved on it. If even that is not enough, set both against a cotton T-shirt with ‘CD’ embroidered on the left top corner of the pocket. The look is now complete. More, not less.

Photos: Dior

Music Cred To Boost Whatever That Needs Boosting

Dior has enlisted Travis Scott for input. Is Kim Jones showing off just how well connected he is?

Why do it alone when you can do it with someone else? Serial collaborator Kim Jones is at it again. Just fresh off a design partnership with Sacai, he has paired with Travis Scott to give the hip-hop star, considered one of the most stylish of them all, a jab at designing luxury clothes. Mr Jones’s Dior is increasingly a community club for people he appreciates to come and lend their voices. Many are not from fashion, but the art world. Sacai’s Chitose Abe was the second fashion professional after Shaw Stussy (the collabs with Alyx and Yoon Ahn yielded only accessories) to be invited. Ms Abe is considered a mountain of a talent and will soon present her debut haute couture for Jean Paul Gaultier, yet she was asked to collaborate on a 57-piece, off-season capsule Dior collection. Mr Scott, whose fashion talents are as a “style icon”, with a “cool wardrobe” and prolific drops in sneakers and other streetwear items linked to his name, gets to do the main line of a main season.

It is not likely Travis Scott’s input is the same as Chitose Abe’s, yet the Dior spring/summer collection features him as their star collaborator. For those in doubt of Mr Travis’s skill level (admittedly we are among the many; we still are), Dior released a video clip on Instagram, showing La Flame working (er, looks to us he was struggling) at a sewing machine. But that perhaps doesn’t matter as fans of the brand and the man would likely find that cute. What matters is the name—also the father of Kylie Jenner’s daughter (we do not know if the parents are married or if they are even together). Perhaps, just as importantly is Mr Scott’s standing as a fashionista and a fashion impresario. The collab is known as Cactus Jack Dior, so named because of the support to youngsters that Mr Scott’s Cactus Jack Foundation, a spin-off of his Cactus Jack Records (there is also a books division Cactus Jack Publishing), offers to those seeking fashion education. There were initial problems with the use of the Cactus Jack name—even the WWE tried to stop it being trademarked as the professional wrestler Mick Foley shares the same (nick)name—but Dior presses on with the association.

The image that the cactus often brings to mind is a desert, and it is in this (make-believe) setting that Dior’s show was staged. (Arid lands are themselves a recurrent set theme this menswear season.) This desert tableau is, according to the house, to “celebrate” Christian Dior’s first visit, in 1947, to the United States, where his first port of call was Texas (Mr Scott is Texan!), “whose grand canyons and huge dusty deserts made a lasting impression”. But the runway now isn’t quite that arenaceous vastness; it is prettified—to better frame what pre-show publicity had the media called a “blockbuster collaboration”. Everything is oversized: the desert roses, the cacti (naturally), fungi and a cattle skeleton head. So is the star power. Following the show, the press called it “the first major celebrity fashion moment”. The clothes? Just watch what Travis Scott wears!

In a 2017 interview with GQ Australia to promote his collaboration with the Aussie brand Ksubi, Mr Scott said, “I’m not like a fashion designer, but (the output of the collab) is like a piece of my brain.” In all likelihood, fashion for surviving the desert is the furthest from the designing duo’s minds. It is not immediately clear what is Mr Scott’s contribution to the partnership (other than the graphics such as the cartoonish Dior logotype), but styling tricks are more apparent than disruptive designs. Recurrent are the jackets, worn with the peaked-lapels upturned to reveal their bi-coloured underside. Other lapel shapes are given similar treatment so that the look is near-Edwardian primness and slimness. The lapels, with the left over the right, are held up together with brooches, designed by Dior’s resident jewellery designer Victoire de Castellane, that are attached to a chain and secured to the left ear, just like an Indian nose chain, except fastened to a spot on the jacket just below the collarbone. Every model in such a get-up looks affected. More dressed down are the oversized T-shirts, pulled over tailored looks (lapels worn conventionally), like a teen mistakenly wearing a concert tee instead of a sweater, over a suit instead of under. There are, of course, sweaters, but what their specific place is in fashion, set in a desert is not quite clear.

Not to be left out are the feminine silhouettes seen elsewhere during these past fashion weeks. Floaty poncho-shirts with busy scribbles by American artist George Condo, bell-bottom pants and those that could be unzipped from the hem of the outseams to give a wider leg opening, and layered shorts that could give the impression of skirts at a quick glance keep to the overall mood of the moment. Accessories are similarly less mannish. Apart from the jewellery (and whatever those sparkly danglies swinging from belt loops are), there are the getting-smaller-by-each-season bags (is the man bag still of popular usage?). For once the Saddle bag—now even with a saddle handle!—seems be to be set in the right context. Giddy-up! This is perhaps a cross-border triumph of inclusivity for Dior: a British designer collaborating with an African-American designer from Texas. The brand has a Black-creative ally. At last.

Photos: Dior

Two Of A Kind: Breastplates

Now that the chest rig is so 2018, perhaps its time for something else to protect the torso?

It’s rather curious to us that warm-weather (or cruise) dressing would require additional gear to trap air to the torso, while arms are totally uncovered. Isn’t it true that with the heat (year after year not letting up), many prefer not to layer? So the suddenly popularity of the breastplate is rather curious. Okay, so far it’s just from two labels: first Dior for cruise 2022 and Burberry for spring/summer 2022, but would these armour-like extras be prelude to a wider trend? Sure, these are not really an outer layer. Do you even consider them clothes? Surely not accessories! But since they are worn and would likely remain on the body throughout the duration of their stay (unlike a bag, which are frequently parted with the body), they might be considered garments?

Breastplates, sometimes also known as chestplates have, in fact, been around for a long time. Often associated with battle wear, they can be traced to antiquity, as seen on Greek warriors, such as the Athenian hoplites. As the elite hoplites had to provide their own panoply or full suit of armour, they had theirs custom-made. This included the breastplate—mostly made of leather and bronze. Only wealthy Greeks, therefore, could be a hoplite. Breastplates slowly fell out of fashion until their resurgence in the Middle Ages. By the 14th and 15th centuries, they were basically very much part of the standard battle order, and remained so all through the Napoleonic wars in the 19th century. In Asia, breastplates were worn too. There were the Chinese xiongjia (胸甲) Japanese do, although both were more like a cuirass—it covers the back as well. Closer to our shore, there was the Majapahit Empire’s karambalangan, sometimes reported to be lavishly gold-embossed! Today, the bullet-proof vests that the police use are believed to be directly descended from the breastplate.

Do Dior’s and Burberry’s breastplates have any protective quality? Frankly, we do not know. Dior’s bib-like versions—although shown in Athens—aren’t quite like those worn by the hoplites or even the goddess Athena (often depicted wearing one over her peplos). Their version looks like chestplates Amazons of Themyscira (later known by the more familiar Paradise Island) might wear—more Queen Hippolyta than Princess Diana. The abstractly-shaped and loose version at Burberry appears more like a shrunken apron with a rather shapely hem that recalls the bottom edge of the bodices worn by Italian women of the 16th and 17th Century. Whichever you’re drawn to, wear these equivalent of a face-mask-for-the-torso with something sleeveless underneath. And breathe.

Photos: Dior and Burberry respectively

Dior Goes Sporty

At the cruise show, Dior shows pieces that you could go to gym in. Will you?

Dior packed their 2022 cruise collection and sent it to Athens, Greece to be shown at the Panathenaic Stadium, an ancient site where the first modern-day Olympics took place, in 1896. This show isn’t, of course, the first fashion presentation to take place in a sports arena. Last October, Hedi Slimane showed his spring/summer 2021 collection in Monaco’s Stade Louis II, a track and field stadium that’s also the home of AS Monoca, the national football team. But the Panathenaic has a far more ancient history—it was first built in the late 5th century BC (it was rebuilt many times before), and the present stadium—refurbished in 1890s and opened in time for that first Olympics—that Dior picked for its show only hinted at what it was before. But the touristic monument’s ode to sports is commensurate with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s latest (feminist?) pursuit: “clothes as a way of giving freedom of movement”.

Although, ironically, only men participated in the sports of the precursor to the Olympics in 566 BC till the 3rd century AD, women too were involved. In fact, the Panathenaea, as it was known, was largely a festival that also involved religious worship (to honour the goddess Athena), cultural events (poetic and musical competitions), and the prize-award ceremony, all held in the stadium (originally the greek word stadion, a measure of length said to be roughly 600 feet, or 183 metres). According to the show communique, “the choice of this venue, creating a prodigious bridge between sport and culture, ancient heritage and contemporary youth, is highly symbolic for Maria Grazia Chiuri, notably through its connections to the body and the freedom of movement she cherishes, but also through the motifs that inform the collection and its sportswear spirit…” Operative word: “freedom”, the exemption from the old believe that sports clothes are kept apart from couture.

Sportswear, it should be noted, is not necessary sporting clothes, just as athleisure has very little to do with athletics. Ms Chiuri’s garments for fitness pursuits are really puttering with the idea of looking sporty and not for the specific engagement in rigorous activities of the athletic kind. These in a gym would have a look-at-me side effect that no serious gym goer would desire (they rather have trimness or musculature be appreciated). The print-heavy pieces would appeal to, say, tai-tais who like to amuse themselves and their friends with the believe that they’re fitness fanatics. Healthy is the new wealthy. This is, however, not Undercover’s Gyakusou line. The pieces are, at best, ‘activewear’ for running around, not for raising the heart rate or meeting the 10,000-step health quota. Or, what sports brands call “lifestyle” options. Luxe Lululemon? Ms Chiuri also appears to target her sportswear at hip-hop artistes, who often blur the line between sporting clothes and those worn for performing—looks that make a statement, fashion that serves as status symbol.

Ms Chiuri’s idea of modern is to pair sneakers with nearly everything, even red carpet-ready dresses. Despite the many pairs of trainers worn, there is something overly dressed-up about her sports ensembles (you’d need time to pull everything together), which may reflect the sartorial mood at the Panathenaea, maybe not. In ancient times, the Panathenaic Games comprised athletic and equestrian contests, and contestants required no footwear (at least in the beginning. Athletes who wore sandals—the daily footwear then—were seen as novel, even parochial). Perhaps the most delicious irony of Dior’s layered and gaudy looks at the Panathenaic stadium is that the men who participated in the sports here, back in those early, early years competed in the nude.

Screen shot (top) and photos: Dior

West Meets East: Dior X Sacai

Kim Jones shows how much he admires Chitose Abe as Sacai becomes his latest Stussy

Dior is on a collaboration roll. Sacai is on a collaboration roll. It’s really a matter of time when the two brands will find each other. We’re surprised it was not sooner. Dior’s Kim Jones wrote on Instagram that Sacai’s Chitose Abe “has been a friend for about 15 years”. It’s amazing that in this time, Mr Jones has not thought of pairing with Ms Abe. Until the pandemic strikes and he misses “friends and travel”; until he could no longer visit Japan, where he and his team “visited a lot”. “We started a conversation about working together,” he wrote, “and did this collection over a period of lockdown, sending samples and sketches back and forth.” Collaboration has, for a long time, the sense of cooperating in close proximity. Now, that may only be feasible by connecting remotely and digitally. It does make us wonder if the partnership would have yielded a stronger result if they had, in fact, been able to be in each other’s company and allowed the proverbial ideas to bounce off each other.

The images that Dior made available to the media do not really reveal a lot. Sacai’s clothes are always more complex than they appear, but how much of that complexity is absorbed into the Dior aesthetic isn’t immediately discernible. Mr Jones isn’t the kind of designer that Ms Abe is—a brilliant and tenacious technician. He tends to play it straight. Hybridisation is not his forte. Nor, are unusual cuts (Ms Abe was a pattern-maker at Comme des Garçons before starting her own label). Compare Mr Jones’s ‘remake’ of Nike’s Air Jordan 1 for Dior (which is still asking five-figures sums!) to Ms Abe’s Nike Blazer for Sacai (we’ll just stick to basketball shoes). And the difference is clear. One is happy to go with the as-is, while the other is eager to see what are other possibilities, such as ripping apart and redoing. Or, perhaps, the mere pairing of Dior and Sacai is hybridising itself?

With a touch of Sacai, Dior is looking better than ever. The 57-piece capsule still bears the touches of Kim Jones, for sure. The clothes definitely is still amped-up to hit luxury’s high notes—for example, the fabrics are still heavy—but they look less couture-fied, as if Ms Abe had, at her end in Tokyo, relaxed this and that. There is the clearly casual ‘shacket’ (shirt-jacket that is more a Japanese obsession than French), with zipped pockets that might have been plucked from an MA-1 bomber jacket, which Ms Abe often reinterprets or adapts from. In fact, no Sacai anything is complete without it and the MA-1 makes it Dior appearance, slightly longer and with a two-zip fastening. Another Sacai detail is the draw-cord hem on shirts—Dior didn’t omit that. Nor, the Sacai two-layer shirttails that contrast the woven with the knit. Re-looking at the images, what struck us as possibly clever is that Dior fans will see Dior and Sacai followers will be able to suss out Sacai.

And there are the accessories. The Diorness is unmistakable, as in their structured forms. And, of course, the Saddle Bag, but now, not offered in its original (reintroduced) shape. A Prada-ish tote, for example, comes with the signature leather flap of the Saddle. A D-ring attached to one end of the handle allows a water bottle and its nylon/leather sleeve to be attached. The side of the bag also sports lacing that is reminiscent of backpacks that have similarly fastened cords to hold skateboards. These function-first details, often seen in Sacai designs, is very much a Japanese design vernacular and is often seen in the work of Sacai’s compatriot label Kolor (Ms Abe is married to its founder/designer Junichi Abe). But perhaps the most coveted will be anything with the new logo: the Dior text with Sacai stretched out on the ‘i’. And if one, emblazoned across the back of a top, is any indication, Dior is going to have another Stussy in its hands.

Photos: Brett Lloyd/Dior

Dior’s Tale Of Lesbian Awakening

Another side of Dior, even if only in a tarot-based fantasy?

Are we taking everything too literally when we say that this is a tale of same-sex discovery? Or are we narrowing our thinking, the result of staying too much at home? There is the bath scene. What was that all about? What is it doing in a fashion film? Or, perhaps some might say, why shouldn’t it appear in a fashion film? But isn’t fashion about putting on clothes, rather than taking them off? And what fashion can be discerned when making out in a bath tub? Where the two characters, male (er, masculine should be the better word) and female, played by the same actress, the Italian-French Agnes Claisse (most recently 2017’s Blue Kids) really, in the end, just a union of the ying and the yang, the opposites that exist in us all? Is it possible that loving both our masculine or feminine side is, in fact, just the narcissism we have always denied? Or, is this the love that dares not speak its name—forbidden colours, to quote Yukio Mishima? If the non-utterance and forbiddance is so not now, isn’t it because the film seems to depict medieval times? Don’t you hate it when films, long or short, leave you with more questions than answers?

Fashion is, of course, about fantasy, the faraway, the stuff that exist in dreams until some designer takes it out of there. In hard times, fantasy and dreams are good, some seem to think. While many designers have reacted to the current still-pandemic-stricken situation by reflecting what the mood among fashion adopters is, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri prefers to take the contrary position. Her latest outing takes us to an imaginary Le Château du Tarot (actually a Tuscan residence) in a time that is believed to be when the tarot cards were invented and used the way we know them now. Divination is not alien in the history of the house, as, reportedly, Monsieur Dior himself had often resorted to the reading of tarot cards to help him move forward in hard times. This superstition and the illustrations found on those cards, in particular, the ancient ones, are the basis of the visual positioning of Dior’s spring/summer 2021 haute couture collection.

For now, Ms Chiuri has retired her political/social/feminist statements. The replacement is a moody dreamscape/fantasia that is alive with assorted characters found on tarot cards: the women and feminine representations, such as the High Priestess, Temperance, Justice, and, inevitably(?), Death, appearing in the film by Italian director Matteo Garrone, who had also directed last season’s Dior couture presentation, set among nymphs and fairies in the woods. The dreaminess and soft focus are, therefore, visually recurrent to better recreate a magical realm and, as Dior states, “tarot cards are among the keys to accessing” it. The storyline, as you watch the film, is not immediately clear. It takes place among the many rooms of the said château. The protagonist arrives, she goes in, and is led through multiple rooms by different inhabitants (or are they, like her, visitors too?), one of them laughing dementedly (or eerily?). She sees a masculine character and is lured into seeking him-her. She is given directions by the splendidly-attired that she meets. A few have head-dresses to equal Maleficent’s. Apart from playing ushers, what were they really doing? The climax is the bath, where she who seeks finds he-she who lures. There was the disrobing and then the inevitable kiss. Two become one, to paraphrase The Spice Girls. The masculine absorbs the feminine, and the change of hair colour confirms the union.

The clothes—it’s always about the clothes—hint at her years with her former employer, Valentino, where she co-designed the collections with Pierpaolo Piccioli, whose “reign in the House of Valentino,” Frances McDormand wrote in Time, “has been a lesson in grace.” Ms Chiuri has brought a vestige of that grace to Dior couture, specifically the decorum linked to medieval times, which both designers explored when there were colleagues. There is a palpable modesty to it all, as if to negate the skin bearing or hinting that she has introduced to the RTW. Or are all that fabrics necessary to show off the skills of the atelier? The luscious gowns, without doubt, represent the epitome of dressmaking done mostly by hand. The recherché classicality deliberately illustrates the exquisiteness of couture, in case you didn’t know. It is difficult to position custom-made collections these days. Does a house celebrate craft or design? Can both coexist? Despite the dreamy and fanciful filmic musing, Dior has not really answered the question.

Screen grab (top) and photos: Dior

Priming The Pomp

Dior salutes “the masculine extravagance of ceremonial garb”, as the show notes state. Are you ready for band leader schtick?

For the latest Dior collection, Kim Jones collaborates with yet another artist—Scot-in-Trinidad figurative painter Peter Doig, contemporary of the milliner Stephen Jones (they where schoolmates at Central Saint Martins). The Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones’s impression of Mr Doig: “Amid all the nonsense, impostors, rhetorical bullshit and sheer trash that pass for art in the 21st century, Doig is a jewel of genuine imagination, sincere work and humble creativity.” In the first part of Mr Jones’s comment, he could have referred to fashion as well, but we are not sure if Kim Jones (no relation to the critic) is offering anything in his work for Dior that can be characterised as “humble creativity”. If anything at all, the Dior designer has infused the brand with considerable measure of grandiloquence, which is really how some luxury brands are moving forwards theses days, as counterpoint to the the mundane and the necessarily practical that have come to dominate the world, much of it in various guises of lockdown and reduced social interaction. Dior projects that this will all be over by Q3, and we’re all ready to rally around the bandstand and watch society and everything around us bounce rhythmically back.

According to Dior, the collection is a nod to “the ceremony of the everyday”. That is, of course, diametrically different to what we’re used to these days since formal activities conducted in public with some measure of solemnity—or importance—are far and between, or even discouraged. Many pieces in the collection allude to uniforms of brigades ready for a parade. Or, intended for evening dress. Mess dress redux? Our NS men would recognise them as No. 1 dress, although the silhouettes are a lot more relaxed, and the details more akin to the less regimental versions of Calvary uniforms, be they reiterations of the shell jacket or the frock coat. The details—without lapels in some instance (stand collar instead), contrast piping, and brass(?) stud buttons—have the air of the ceremonial, but where do they stand if the occasion were to be decidedly less, say, inaugural, to cite one recent event that’s still fresh in our minds?

These are nothing like those military uniforms that rock stars of the past used to wear—clearly ceremonial, such as the red Grenadier drummer’s jacket that Mick Jagger wore in the ’60s or the authentic hussar’s uniform (believed to date back to 1850s) that former soldier Jimi Hendrix wore, or those braids-aplenty sets adopted by the Beatles during the Sgt. Peppers era. These are, of course, more modern, more cool, as Mr Jones designs are usually tagged. And to augment these two crucial elements, he has added extended/exposed pocket bags to the front of the jackets and appliqued ribbons and stars emerging from the yoke, and tweaked the traditional stripes down the outside leg seams of military trousers—also known to the Germans who popularised them as lampasse—by leaving them stitched up to the knee or up to the calf and flapping like the ends of notched or pointed ribbons respectively.

Yet, theses could be the look of teenagers incorporating drum major uniforms into their anti-establishment stance. Or, as we see them, the mimicking a bell hop’s at-work look. Seeing the clothes this way may obliterate their haute couture bearing (Dior’s petit mains are, again, involved in some of the pieces), but it is precisely this perception that, to us, takes the haute out of the equation. To be sure, these Dior ceremonial coats are, according to Mr Jones, inspired by what artists in France wear during the ceremony when they’re inducted into the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. But how many of us enjoy occasions such as those these inductees partake? Or, the chance to just play dressed-up in looks reminiscent of military folk of yore?

And there is the art collaboration; art being the incorporation in luxury ready-to-wear now that attempts to elevate the ho-hum to high art. Mere graphic design isn’t enough (although Issey Miyake Studio has done wondrous work with the estate of Ikko Tanaka, with such well-received output that there’s an Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake sub-brand). Art has a long history with haute couture (at present, we’re thinking of Yves Saint Laurent and George Braque). Mr Jones’s previous pairing with Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, Portrait of an Artist, yielded a “celebration of identity, of power of creativity”, visibly, not necessarily or convincingly, so. This time, with Peter Doig, the application of the artist’s distinctive brush strokes is more subtle, less plonked-on, less museum shop, and, in some outerwear, the monochrome washes, more textile than canvas, distinguishing themselves as wearable rather than exhibitable. It is not yet clear how successful such collaborations are. Artists, for most, do not paint with the aim of being assimilated into fashion design, which, in the end, is destined for the body, not the easel.

Photos: Dior