The debut menswear collection at Dior by Kim Jones was another milestone in this spring/summer 19 season that is pivoting fashion. In one stroke, Jones put men’s on the same playing field as women’s at Dior, where previously it has been under the sub-label Dior Homme. Looking for the Dior Homme Instagram account? It’s been deleted.
Jones seemed to have set his new agenda based on two words: chic and couture. Talking about the collection a couple of days before the show those were the two words he used most. “It’s very chic and light and elegant,” he said. Jones had been researching deep in the womenswear archives. Fabrics were often of couture complexity, like a white sheer shirt with feather embroidery. A softly tailored double-breasted suit with a curved placket and one button fastening was excellent. The collection was soft, with much tulle and organza cut to menswear shapes. But the chicness and elegance also had a full stop. This being menswear in the 21st century, the models wore sneakers.
It’s a totally different world from Jones’s previous job at Louis Vuitton, where functionality was an overriding concern. Jones is a designer usually associated with casual, but he has history with sartorial. Before Vuitton, Jones was creative director of Dunhill, and this collection felt like a continuation of his experiments at that label. How to inject energy into the refined? This is now his mission.
For an idea of the scale of his ambition, look to the bags. His predecessor, Kris Van Assche, failed to provide the brand with a hero product for his entire 10 years at Dior Homme. Jones packed his first show with commercial bangers, particularly the return of the saddlebag, the bag introduced to womenswear in 1999, by John Galliano, the designer who propelled Dior in the luxury brand era.
Galliano was a designer of wild abandon, until his sudden exit from the brand in 2011. But his Dior sat quite apart from Hedi Slimane, who was appointed in 2000 to create Dior Homme. It was the first time Dior had created high fashion menswear, and the look was then radical: abbreviated tuxedos and skin-hugging jeans. Dior Homme was an immediate success, and entirely disconnected from the work Galliano was doing in womenswear. At Dior Homme, there were absolutely no saddlebags.
Meanwhile, in London, Kim Jones graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2002. Much of his graduate collection was bought by John Galliano. See what’s happening here?
Slimane left Dior Homme in 2008. His successor Van Assche pretty much followed Slimane’s template, and creatively the brand stagnated. Jones said he had no interest in following Slimane’s codes, especially with Slimane’s new position. “I’m not going to look at Hedi’s work,” said Jones, “because Hedi is at Celine.”
And so the look of Dior Homme disappears, along with its name. Jones has been public in his appreciation of Galliano, posting clips of Dior couture to his 444,000 Instagram followers in the run-up to his show. His tribute to the bag was rendered in various different ways: a mini bag that attaches to a belt loop; a clutch with a strap for the hand; as the pocket shape on a large leather hold-all. From Galliano to Jones: it was one of those pleasing times when fashion goes full circle.
The craftsmanship on some of the pieces was extraordinary. The final embroidered floral shirt took weeks to embellish. Is it sacrilege to say I’m looking forward to seeing what Jones does with easier pieces? They will come soon. He said he already knows his next two collections. Then this new world at Dior will be fully revealed.
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