Permanence. The most human of concerns when facing our temporal nature: what can one do to prevail through the passing of millennia upon oneself? Most answers circle around the idea of creating something that can carry on memory after the body is long gone. This is the central idea behind Kim Jones’ Summer 2020 Menswear Collection for the House of Dior.
In collaboration with American multidisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham, Kim Jones, head designer and Artistic Director for Dior’s men collections, presents this new vision of the future through the exploration of the past. The key concept centers on the imaginary “modern archeology”, conceived by Arsham, which revolves around the thought of everyday objects from the present being discovered centuries in the future. The passage of time, the tear and wear, and the historic iconography take center stage on this new proposal in high couture for men.
As is customary with House of Dior’s presentations, the artistic concept permeates over every aspect of the show: decoration, ambience, and, of course, the pieces themselves feature elements recognizable as ancient while all being contemporary. Before walking into the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, guests were greeted by the sober, orthogonal exterior of the building. Going through the small, square entrance, a reconstruction of Monsieur Christian Dior’s office appeared, with all objects, walls and ceilings made from a rocky material, effectively conveying the idea of decades of dust and stone piling on top of each precious item. Already feeling as if the discovery of an ancient, long-sealed room had just taken place, the next room, the main show happened, inspired a mix of awe and strangeness.
The ample space was almost monochromatic, fully painted in pastel pink which subtly faded into brighter, deeper pink. The show floor itself was completely covered in pink sand, featuring its own perfect degradé from bright, saturated pink into a tone so pale it reminded of white. Models would soon walk upon it, messing and mixing the sand, signifying the passage of time itself over the creation of man. Center stage, giant letters grabbed the attention: “DIOR”, spelled out in gigantic font, which promptly remind of antique totems, barely standing the test of time. Eroded rock cemented the name of the House in bold letters, building up to the idea of an archeological discovery of marvelous proportions. Out of the rocks, crystals grew, as if trying to complete the letters themselves, a beautiful visual metaphor of the shining possibilities growing straight from the past. The whole set is reminiscent of a distant future, models stood amidst a serene, expansive, barren desert dotted with monoliths that spoke of a brilliant history.
The pieces themselves feature the high-quality for which Dior has always been known for. Savoir-faire is the key characteristic in all of Dior’s and specially Kim Jones’ collections; the valuable knowledge of just how to convey a message and manage several different tailoring techniques for a unique product. Heavily influenced by the time games presented by Arshman, each ensemble portrays motifs from Dior’s history, explores new boundaries and makes use of elements akin to the passage of time.
The first notable element is the color, which, in general, mimics the same degradé present in the stage. Pale colors as if bleached by decades under the sun are a mainstay in the collection, but certain accessories feature a brighter color. Fades and gradients are also present in individual articles to accomplish a very interesting look, as is the case with the many flowing silk sashes, which offer a flowy feeling to the outfit. The clearest example of masterful usage of gradients is on certain light shirts, plain white in their core, but featuring a very intricate design of hand-pleated silk crêpe. These silks are also hand-stained by an exclusive Parisian atelier, dyed in deep royal blue and vibrant orange, which slowly and discretely fade into paler shades all the way to the white of the shirt itself. In movement, these pieces create a flowing effect, as if actual water and clouds were entrapped in the design, further cementing the idea of a marvelous landscape.
Some of the most adventurous pieces take the desert ambience and present astounding head garbs in bright pink, neutral grey and muted sand, complete with a stylish cap. Long overcoats in all of these tones compliment the silhouette, oozing a sense of preparedness to withstand extreme conditions and never lose style. Alas, the heavier looking coats playfully combine with light shirts of transparent silk. A see-through shirt in deep electric blue is worthy of note, along with the very jazzy prints featured on some of the other dress shirts. Firstly, a repeating pattern composed of the vintage Dior motif covers a shirt in its entire surface, a black and white print that reminds of a checkered pattern. Next, both a long- and short-sleeved shirt prominently display the same monolithic, decaying letters present in the stage, printed on a dark grey surface. This same design is available on short shorts for a complete, fresh, summery look. The last, interestingly intricate print, are a couple of Toile de Jouy ensembles, both long- and short-sleeved as well as shorts and trousers. This print is, as is traditional with Toile de Jouy, printed on the inside of the piece in question, and in this particular case its done entirely by hand in Kyoto, Japan, by experienced kimono craftsmen.
Perhaps, the embodiment of the collection’s concept comes in the form of a simple, long, loose fitting shirt. Imprinted with the Dior brand in a special texture, the perfectly uniform cloth is interrupted subtly, breached at the chest, by fracture lines. Cracks not unlike those that appear on the ground throughout the ages, this simple, yet communicative article showcases the incredibly simple yet complex concept of time: untouched surfaces, preserved ideals, tested and coming forth victorious against any and all complications.
Revisiting old designs and offering fresh looks is probably the best expression of the core idea behind this collection. As such, Kim Jones revived his debut tailleur oblique suit cut and breathed new life into it, adapting it for better outwear, as well as cleverly mixing in long drabs for a very interesting image. It is also combined with the already iconic Dior saddle bag, on a new take by using its recognizable contour into the flaps of the overcoats and blazers.
The traditional iteration of the bag also makes an appearance, intervened by Arshman, the saddle is now cast in silicone and styled to mimic the wear and decadence of the whole concept. Another version is entirely made with the Dior newspaper print presented for the first time in the 2000 Summer collection, as a symbol of the timeless ideal behind the collection: bring the past forth to the present, preserve the present to be rediscovered in the future.
Most all of the accessories for this collection are in some way intervened directly by Daniel Arshman. Taking the jewelry designed by Yoon Ahn and casting it to freely modify it, Arshman eroded and strategically destroyed the resulting pieces, demonstrating the beauty of decadence. The repeating leitmotif of the decaying Dior letters is seen once and again throughout the jewelry, shoes, pendants, pins, and satchels complimentary to the clothes. Noteworthy are transparent rubber shoes appearing to be casts by themselves. Other everyday items are also featured as singular decorative pieces, such as keys and chains, embellished with the Christian Dior monogram.
One last detail worthy of mention is the carry-on bags of outstanding proportions. In a first-time collaboration between the House of Dior and the luxury luggage brand RIMOWA, the resulting bags are one of their kind. Backpack, champagne cases, hand cases, clutches and cabin suitcases, all modelled by the iconic aluminum grooves of the German house. These special editions combine high-end processes and excellent taste in an innovative combination of vibrant pigments and raw metals, complex reflecting surfaces and the visual representation of the value of material as a concept used as the cornerstone of the collection.
Kim Jones’ and Daniel Arshman’s collection is a sophisticated and artistic take on the fashion world of today and tomorrow. Wheeling out the most representative elements of the House of Dior and Monsieur Dior’s imagination, the whole collection is a love letter to the values and ideas of old and to what the brand can, and will, become in the future. Picturing the brand prevailing many years into the future is not difficult. The values it has upheld through its long-lived history are timeless: highest quality and precious materials, artistic visions and visionary standards. These are the things that will come to mind when a Dior artifact is discovered in the far future, effectively permanent ideals conjured by the brightest of minds within the world of high-couture.
Photos: : Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com.