In his announcement of Kim Jones as the new artistic director for Dior Men, Christian Dior Couture’s chairman and CEO Pietro Beccari said that the English fashion designer would "create an elegant men’s wardrobe both classic and anchored in contemporary culture". Jones has fulfilled this prophetic vision with his widely celebrated summer 2019 collection; his debut for the maison that is peppered with tributes to founder Monsieur Dior but, also, cleverly updated to suit the Dior man of today.
ESQ: First of all, congratulations on a beautiful debut. Was the decision to bring in collaborators, such as Yoon Ahn, KAWS, Matthew Williams and Stephen Jones, due to the three-month deadline you had to create the summer 2019 show? Or do you see collaborations as a continuing theme?
KIM JONES: I’ve always wanted to work with KAWS, I think he’s super chic and also his work speaks to a lot of people. So that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve grown up loving KAWS but now he’s like one of the major artists of his generation and it’s for everybody really. I wanted an element of surprise there, so we commissioned KAWS to redesign the iconic bee, a Dior house code. I’d wanted to make this show into something massive and it was a huge success with KAWS. Dior is a large company, but the staff really respect each other and the maison has a warm family-like atmosphere. KAWS really fits well into that.
I wanted to bring some fresh and global touches to the new Dior men’s collection, and I’ve always wanted to try something exciting with Yoon Ahn and Matthew Williams, so I invited her to join my team. Yoon is part of the studio, I thought it was nice to have someone who was working on custom jewellery and someone who is not a French person coming from a different part of the world. She is a really independent woman. Her interpretation of Dior is fantastic and she really gets the kind of things I like. Matthew Williams is a friend of mine and he designed the metal buckles for this collection. I love the buckles he does so I had him make originals for us. He also has a great understanding of Dior and is one of the artists that I want to work together with in the future. Stephen Jones is a designer who has had a close relationship with Dior for over 20 years and is a key person in the maison. He’s a designer who represents the UK fashion world of the ’70s and ’80s, and I really respect him.
ESQ: Tell us about the genesis or inspiration for your summer 2019 collection.
KIM JONES: The summer 2019 collection references everything that was Dior. The whole archive and heritage at Dior are incredible and the respect for it is so great, it inspired me to keep building the legacy. I’ve used the house colours and patterns and taken pieces from Mr Dior interiors and family archive as a reference, but I also looked at Mr Dior’s personal life. The floral motif comes from Monsieur Dior’s dinner services. They echo both Monsieur Dior’s love of nature, and his ‘femmes-fleur’. We just blew them up and made them into prints because Mr Dior was famously into his food as well. His dog, Bobby, inspired a limited edition of the Miss Dior perfume in 1952. We did Mr Dior as the BFF KAWS character with his dog Bobby, which he loved. The jewellery introduces a new Modernist logo derived from the one used for the Dior family’s business ventures in the 1920s. And, then, the toile de Jouy which is actually the one from the first store that Monsieur Dior did in 1947 and it’s embroidered under a toile of tulle and organza. Another signature of the house is the cannage that is laser cut in the leather trench and in some bags. It’s just a very chic, light update.
ESQ: There is a sense that both the men’s and women’s universes at Christian Dior are more unified now, especially with the interpretation of the Saddle bag and the use of the Dior monogram in menswear. Was that intentional?
KIM JONES: The masculine/feminine legacy of Christian Dior is very relevant for now. He was looking at very masculine coats when he was doing womenswear, and I think you can apply those into the menswear quite easily without it looking feminine. It looks elegant and I think that is important. I looked at all the references from when Dior was doing Dior and it was a women’s house. But I think when you see it and you break it down, pieces turn into very real things for men. I would call it more romantic than feminine because I think it’s quite a romantic house. We chose pink as one of our main colours because it was used in women’s gowns during our maison’s founding era as well as in Monsieur Dior’s family home. I looked back to the toile Dior Oblique with treatments, and this toile comes from a womenswear reference. We also reworked the Saddle bags. They come from such a masculine reference and still feel so relevant that I thought it was the right time to bring them into the men’s universe.
ESQ: What are your favourite key looks or accessories from your debut collection? What do you expect to be a hit and why?
KIM JONES: I have a lot but one of my favourites is a white-collar shirt with white feathers and toile de Jouy all-over embroidery handmade by Maison Lemarié, using the same haute couture approach. It’s a real haute couture piece that required 1,000 hours to create. The toile de Jouy has been chosen for the original boutique at 30 Avenue Montaigne which is a new Dior emblem inspired by this heritage.
ESQ: It seems that fashion designers are now expected to churn out more than two collections per year. You held your Dior pre-autumn 2019 show in Tokyo in November, and then the regular autumn/winter show in January. Do you think fashion is doing too much? Or do you think menswear has a lot more room to grow to catch up to women’s?
KIM JONES: Everything will be more intertwined. Also, now people have access to fashion like never before, which requires constant innovation. We do several collections each year, six in my case, because that’s what consumers want. I like doing it because I have fun. As long as I have time for myself, it’s great. I’ve always thought it’s important to disconnect, to know your limits.
ESQ: Who do you picture your Dior man to be? Describe his life, hobbies, pet peeves and passions. Do you have any male muses?
KIM JONES: The Dior man knows what he wants; he is confident and not afraid to try new things. He knows the world and respects it.
ESQ: As a couture house, the ateliers at Christian Dior are used to stretching the limits of craftsmanship. Was it a challenge to edit down the things you wanted to do for your debut because there’s such a wide range of possibilities?
KIM JONES: For the first show, it was important to me to look at the tradition of the house and to make the most of the incredible atelier and savoir faire. I really wanted to start at Dior with Dior, so this collection was really inspired by the conversations that took place at the atelier and seeing the archives. The skills of artisans working in the Dior atelier are a source of my energy. I’m always thinking of the atelier; the craftspeople are indeed extraordinary.
ESQ: Tell us something that people generally don’t know—either about the collection itself or your process of creation.
KIM JONES: I want to see the whole world before I die. Travel has been always an important part of my life and became a continuous source of inspiration for my work. I love going to places I haven’t been to before. I just look at the moment and see what’s relevant for now and I do it. I’m always seeing places, inspiring things and meeting so many different people.
ESQ: Do you think it’s possible to create something new in fashion or is it all cyclical and just improvements on past ideas?
KIM JONES: As a designer you don’t have to do one thing. It’s nice to turn a page and do something new.
ESQ: How do you deal with pressure—both from other people’s expectations of you and your collection, and your own self-imposed expectations?
KIM JONES: I have the confidence to know that I can do it well. I’ve got confidence in my work because I’ve proved it critically and commercially. But even so, you have days where you’re, like: ‘What am I doing? Right, that’s it, I’m just looking at the same fabrics again and again.’ Now I’m quite fast in terms of making decisions; I just think you have to be decisive.
Photographs by Adrien Dirand, Jackie Nickerson, Morgan O’Donovan and Sophie Carre.
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