Death, taxes, and Kim Jones setting the tone — and trends — for luxury menswear. These are the things that are guaranteed in life.
Alongside the late Virgil Abloh, Jones was largely responsible for the rapprochement between the luxury and streetwear realms in the latter half of the 2010s and early 2020s, offering up Louis Vuitton × Supreme as one of the parting gifts from his time at the maison for Spring/Summer 2017. Since joining Dior as artistic director for menswear in 2018, Jones’ collections have steadily evolved, albeit always fitting within the broader Jonesian aesthetic.
Early in his Dior tenure came much-hyped collaborations with the artist Daniel Arsham, Matthew M. Williams — then of 1017 ALYX 9SM and currently also of Givenchy — RIMOWA luggage, Jordan Brand, and Travis Scott. Luxury menswear, writ large, also became increasingly reliant on celebrity cosigns, co-branded and cross-pollinated collections (something more profound than a singular collaborative item), and guest designers.
In other words, the things that Jones had previously popularized and was expanding on at Dior.
More recently, Jones — who is also the artistic director of Fendi’s women’s ready-to-wear, couture, and fur — has steered Dior’s menswear toward more traditional and timeless waters, favouring lesser-hyped partners whose work is likely best known by an older demographic. Think poets and painters rather than of-the-moment designers and festival headliners.
The clothing has become a bit more reigned in, hewing more closely to the norms of classic menswear than those of anything-goes streetwear. Yet despite moving away from the hype, Jones — for whom collaboration, travel, and art are ingrained in his modus operandi — has continued to infuse Dior’s menswear collections with a quotient of deeply researched cool for the discerning luxury consumer.
Dior’s Spring/Summer 2023 menswear collection is a sterling example of how Jones has managed to balance Dior’s rich history, artisanal savoir-faire, and traditional menswear with his own future-forward, collaborative approach to men’s clothing.
“The collection is a continuation of the conversation that started for Winter 22-23, of looking at Dior in this 75th anniversary year of the house,” Kim Jones tells SHARP. To capture that spirit, Jones honed in on Christian Dior’s home in Granville, as well as on the British painter and Bloomsbury Group member Duncan Grant and his home and studio at Charleston in Sussex. Grant and Dior, who happened to share the same birthday, January 21st, also “shared the connection to the garden and light; they both lived in wonderful houses and had distinct private worlds that they both used as inspiration.”
Jones is cognizant of how much inspiration one can draw from places near and dear to creatives, be they painters or fashion designers. “For me,” he says, “[it] would be Africa. We lived in four countries: Botswana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. I have a profound love for the different cultures of those places. They represent a fundamental source of inspiration for me.”
Jones has examined these themes in his previous work, and, as such, Dior’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection is exclusively about Granville, Charleston, and the influence those places had on Messrs. Dior and Grant. “For both Christian Dior and Duncan Grant, their homes, their gardens, and their private environments were so important for their creativity,” Jones explains. “It was these meaningful, private spheres that were translated into their work and became public.”
Normandy and Sussex — home to Granville and Charleston — boast similar climates, which informs the way of life in those parts and, by extension this collection. “There is the idea of a private, countryside life, lived casually in more utilitarian clothes — focused on gardening, walking, and fishing,” Jones says, “and contrasted at the same time with the more elegant and formal Dior codes.”
That’s reflected in the colour palette, which taps into a gradient of Dior greys, pinks, and pastels (the sky), as well as greens and blues (gardens, hiking trails and water) to submerge us in the magic of these places. The pieces themselves have an undeniably utilitarian edge yet remain artful and intricate. Technical innovation like rubber-injected boots and 3D printing are balanced with more traditional elements like delicate embroideries and silk organza jackets; there are trail running-inspired shorts, but also sweaters and anoraks that repurpose Duncan Grant’s sketches and paintings; there are timeless double-breasted jackets in beiges and greys but also of-the-moment shell necklaces and florals.
If this collection is different from Jones’ most talked about offerings it remains something that is quintessentially of his doing. It takes vision, skill and imagination — or, in a single word, creativity — to take such seemingly disparate sources of inspiration and create something that isn’t just cogent but 123 harmonious. It takes someone able to suss out that Messrs. Dior and Grant would’ve been kindred souls had they met. It takes someone intimately familiar with the history of the Maison and with the artist in question (Jones has collected many of Grant’s works over the years) to realize they share a birthday — and to know that Christian Dior would’ve paid attention to that detail, as Jones says.
And that is what makes Kim Jones special, the feeling that the British designer is intimately familiarwith everything that he references, despite the frenetic pace at which he works given the demands of the industry and the various hats he wears. Working with familiar collaborators, like the milliner Stephen Jones, helps, but so does Kim Jones’ seemingly unflinching obsession with unrivalled quality. (Case in point: the collaboration with Montana-based bag company Mystery Ranch for the Spring/Summer 2023 collection on a series of utilitarian and practical bags, compartmentalized leather rucksacks with retable rain hoods, and multi-pocketed Saddle bags.) How, one wonders, does one of the preeminent Parisian fashion houses come to work with a relatively obscure Montana bag manufacturer?
For Kim Jones, it was simple: “Mystery Ranch is the best outdoor brand I knew. So, with the atelier, we decided to work with them.”
The best, nothing less — that’s what we keep getting from Kim Jones.
Clothing and accessories: Dior Men.
Grooming: Dior Beauty.
Featured Photo: Brett Lloyd.