London, UK – Kim JonesHis career has evolved with two of the biggest brands in the world, pillars of the global fashion machine, so it’s a real achievement that he was able to keep his work – first at Vuitton, now at Dior – as personal as when he launched his own label 17 years ago from Saint Martins. His Spring 2021 collection for Dior Men was no exception. Consider it the final chapter in his autobiography, it comes in a beautifully concise appearance.
Africa has always been Kim’s residence. His father was a hydrogeologist who traveled the world for work, and as a child Jones lived the diversity of the continent: Ethiopia, Kenya, Botswana and Ghana, his father’s favorite country. It has reflected all its maturity. He was looking for an African artist to work with when he re-encountered the work of Ghanaian portraitist Amoako Boafo at Art Basel in Miami last year. Jones made the pilgrimage to Boafo’s studio in Accra, and one of the first things he saw was a painting of a young man in an ivy-print shirt. He immediately remembered an image of his research board in Paris, a woman in a Dior dress with a similar print. Call it Kismet. According to Jones, Boafo was already a huge Dior fan. He became the last in the long and illustrious artistic line of the designer Staff members.
The ivy shirt was a signal piece in the new Dior Men collection, the vines and leaves picked in the type of couture embroidery that Jones enjoys. He challenged the Dior workshops to reproduce Boafo’s signature finger paint effect, a craft union created in art / fashion heaven. There were two pieces of embellished knitting that reproduced Boafo’s portraits, crafted leather that abstracted his shapes, and other more subtle reflections of his textures and color palette. And there was the attitude of the collection, the sleek, elegant silhouette, the belly-banded waist, the layering of toile de jouy and side shirts, and then an explosive table. Masculine couture, in keeping with Jones’ great design. “I had a very clear vision,” he explained. “I designed it almost per look instead of as separate parts. They are different characters from Boafo’s work, but each one is infused with Dior symbols. And the shorts, the striking element? “They got the idea that many of Amoako’s paintings cut off there.”
It would have been a dream to see this collaboration celebrated physically, but a pandemic nightmare intervened. Jones found a silver lining in the no-show cloud. He made another dream, along with two of his heroes, filmmaker Chris Cunningham and photographer Jackie Nickerson, into short films to launch his new collection during the digital Paris Fashion Week. Cunningham earned his place in pop culture history with videos for Björk, Madonna and the Aphex Twin (including “Windowlicker”, once seen, never forgotten.) Kim got to try the disturbing masks chez Cunningham in LA). Nickerson’s opus major was “Farm,” her visual account of two and a half years spent photographing farm workers across South Africa.
With everyone locked, remote collaborations were completed. Boafo filmed his family and friends with Dior in Accra, Cunningham edited the footage in LA and added a soundscape. “I wanted a movie about Amoako so people would understand my love for his work,” said Jones, but Cunningham’s participation adds another visual and sonic layer that reminded me a bit of Mati Diop’s creepy magical Cannes winner “Atlantics.” Nickerson’s film is a poetic interpretation of the collection, set to Max Richter music, but it allows a deep dive into the luscious textures, decorative elements and techniques. Together, the films complement each other, one real world, one dream time.
Considering it’s been made in such challenging times, the Dior Men’s Spring collection feels controlled, serene. But it was emotional for Jones to coincide with his father’s illness and eventual death. As soon as he can, he takes his father ‘home’ to Ghana. It will always be a place where he escapes. At his request, Dior will also ensure that this particular collection leaves a lasting legacy by supporting Boafo’s newly established foundation for young artists in Accra.
The images in this review, courtesy of Dior, are not the entire Dior Men’s Spring / Summer 2021 collection.
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