Kim Jones’ inspiration for his Dior menswear ebbs and flows like a tide. Or, maybe, you could say he deep-dives through the house’s legacy, looking for unexpected pearls. There was a watery undercurrent – yes, a pun – to his Winter 2023 Dior Men’s collection, but it was also very much a collection embedded in the storied histories of a house with a legacy so rich few could rival it. For this outing, Jones decided not only to pay homage to Christian Dior himself, but to his first successor, chosen by the man himself. Said successor was a shy, 21-year-old design prodigy whose hand had become increasingly evident in the supple and eased lines of Dior’s collections immediately preceding his death, but whose name was unknown outside fashion’s inner circle before Dior passed in the autumn of 1957. And after? Well, after that, he became Yves Saint Laurent, a designer possibly even more deified than Dior himself.
So, Jones’ hand was bold – a dual tribute to both Dior and Saint Laurent, but also dredging their respective styles from the archaic and rarefied worlds of mid-last-century haute couture and tugging them into the wardrobe of the 21st-century man. It was the wide-necked easy tunics of Saint Laurent’s startlingly confident debut that Jones chose to transpose into modern menswear: his relaxed silhouettes, his sailor smocks, that resonate with the styles and attitudes of modern sportswear. From Christian Dior, Jones borrowed a delicate palette of heathery colours, a softness pulled from Dior’s innately feminine tailleurs, a love of British fabrics like fine English wools and Donegal tweeds, and even a sense of the outdoors, in oilcloths and capes and hardy sweaters worn with shorts – galoshes even popped up. Monsieur Dior was, after all, a man of the country – he adored spending time in his garden, cultivating roses. He was a lover of nature even though he declared he wished to save women from it – he even wanted to turn his women into the flowers he tended, dubbing his debut line not the ‘New Look’ as fashion christened it, but ‘Corolla’, after the corolla of a flower. But if newness was what you were looking for, Jones offered plenty of it – not least shoes innovatively crafted using 3D print technology, in a Dior first.
Those shoes bottomed looks that were often stalwartly traditional – at least, at first glance. The real joy and art in what Jones did in this Dior collection was to marry together the old and the new. “There is always something of the past in the present and the future,” Jones said, before the show, “Where an old world meets a new one.” And Jones’ reconsideration of established and staple pieces of the wardrobe were, perhaps, the most extraordinary offerings of this strong show. Take a sweater, one arm intact, the other collapsing into fluid drapery across the shoulder, as if captured as a work in progress in a couture studio. Except, of course, the sweater could then be perfectly finished with embellishment like three-dimensional nosegays of lily of the valley, Dior’s favoured bloom. Or kilts caught up into shorts at the back, the free-falling fabric in front again suggesting a spontaneous gesture, like the ribbons of organza that flowed behind models, emphasising their movement, fashion’s ceaseless and inexorable stride forwards.
Past and present, male or female, tailleur and flow, Dior’s history and its future. All were present and correct, in simultaneous conversation. Regeneration, and rejuvenation – like the tides, constantly renewing. Of course, Dior will show another collection next season. But this felt like one for the history books.