Christian Dior’s autobiography was titled, in French, Christian Dior & Moi – far more evocative than the British equivalent, Dior by Dior. But either could be easily applied to Kim Jones’ Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear collection for the house, presented – with eerie prescience, on Christian Dior’s birthday. Lots of houses would have engineered that – but it just happened to be the Friday of Paris menswear in January 2022, when Dior normally shows. But that was, perhaps, the only ordinary thing about this collection – an homage to Dior the man, and Dior the house. “Wouldn’t the ultimate collaboration be with Christian Dior?” Jones mused – and after teaming up with artists from Kaws to Peter Doig, this was another collaboration of sorts – between present and past, and between Jones and the founder whose name he continues.
There are all kinds of parallels to be found in a history as rich and multifaceted as Dior’s. Lassoing London-based Jones to Dior is the fact the couturier adored Britain, its hardy Scottish tweeds and English wool flannels. How about the fact the signature Dior grey is often said to resemble the sky above Paris – but, really, it’s more the colour of muggy British weather? And Dior’s love of tailoring can be traced back to Savile Row, where he had his own suits made. That’s not to say this collection felt British – indeed, with many a look topped by a Stephen Jones beret and paraded on a true-to-life recreation of the Pont Alexandre III bridge that spans the Seine, it couldn’t be more Parisian.
Lightness was the order of the day – lightness of colour, of clothing, but also of influence. Being presented at the start of Dior’s 75th year, this collection refused to be weighted by the heritage of the house. Dior’s history was transfused to new pieces, the result of intimate, exacting knowledge but a deft hand. For the first time, Jones proposed his own version of the Bar jacket, pinching men’s tailoring in at the waist, rounding it at the hips, yet somehow retaining an innate masculinity of form. The Miss Dior dress of 1949, smothered with silk flowers, became slouchy, easy sweatshirts – there was a pair, like Dior’s famous embroidered Venus and Junon dresses of the same year. Moulage, the couture technique of painstaking, handworked drapery that forms some of Dior’s most recognised usable evening dresses, became a twist engineered in the front of soft wool jackets and coats. His signature flower, the lily of the valley, was embroidered across coats, shirts and knits. And the whole thing was anchored with cashmere jogging-bottoms, and deluxe Birkenstocks, inspired, Jones said, by Dior gardening in the ground of his country house, La Colle Noire, in the deep south of France.
All of those references are deep-dive Dior – Stephen Jones, who this year himself celebrates a quarter-century creating millinery at Dior, was dubbed “the oracle” by Kim Jones and inspired many of them. Yet as audience and consumer, you didn’t need, necessarily, to be able to tick them off one by one. No background reading was required to sense the intimacy of couture, the delicacy of flowers, the eighteenth century feel of colour, the interplay of day and evening, formal and casual, that spells out Dior’s identity. You just got it. And rather than Proustian madeleines drawing us ceaseless into a glorious past, these references were engineered to project to the future, not only engaging a new generation of Dior fans, but creating some too.
This collection was remarkable – in its depth and feeling, in its arching overview of a house, and in its deep, personal connection to the man who founded it, and one who now continues part of his indelible legacy.