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Kim Jones on Art, Collaborations and His Pre-Fall 2020 Collection for Dior Men

Kim Jones presents his pre-fall 2020 collection on the eve of Art Basel Miami. Vogue caught up with the Dior Men creative director to discuss his latest artistic collaborations with, among others, Shawn Stussy and Jordan.

You don’t need to be a clairvoyant to predict that when Kim Jones announced he would present the Dior Men pre-fall 2020 collection on the eve of Art Basel Miami, it would be staged in an art institution. But not any institution; Jones, an art lover himself, sought out some of the most discerning mega collectors on the East Coast. The move – paying homage to Mr Dior’s first career as a gallerist – doubles as a christening for the new home of the Rubell collection, The Rubell Museum. On the day we meet, Jones breaks from fittings as he waits for models arrive to take a private tour of the museum with co-founder Mera Rubell. “I had been to see the space before it was done up and Mera had said they were going to hang work on one of the walls that both adults and children will interact with,” he says. “I just knew it was going to be a Keith Haring. It felt very significant to be standing in front of one of his heart paintings on World AIDS Day.”

Over the course of five decades, Mera and her husband Don Rubell have amassed a collection of over 7,200 works of contemporary art by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Yayoi Kusama, and Kara Walker. The key to their fine art of collecting? An aptitude for identifying stars as they are about to rise; they started investing in Jeff Koons and Richard Prince’s work as early as 1979 – long before they joined the ranks of the world’s most expensive living artists. Not entirely dissimilar to Jones’s skill, and before him Christian Dior’s, or in fact any great designer and their ability to know what we want long before we ourselves know. In this instance, what we will want in April 2020 when the pre-fall collection arrives in stores.

What should we expect for Dior Men’s pre-fall?
“It’s always about the three codes of Dior: elegance, couture, and tailoring,” Jones says of his new season’s designs, the enduring legacy of Mr. Dior’s post-war renaissance. “So there’s a lot of suiting and couture techniques, but with an American sports and surfwear approach because we are showing in Miami.” From the outset, the Parisian house has maintained a strong American connection. One of Jones’s favorite pieces of fashion trivia is that Mr. Dior always had an American publicist: “That was incredibly important in how he became such a global brand.” In the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Dior designed clothes worn by models starring in adverts for Cadillacs – the archetype of Americana. These, in turn, served as inspiration for John Galliano’s 2001 Cadillac trailer bag collection, which has been renovated and restored for pre-fall. Then, during his tenure as artistic director of Christian Dior following Mr. Dior’s death, Yves Saint Laurent named his summer 1963 collection ‘Floride’, imbuing the house’s aesthetic with an essence of the sunshine state – bucket hats, vest tops and all. Milliner Stephen Jones has reimagined those hats this season, as well as the classic beret in hibiscus prints, embellishing them with flourishes of fabric flowers and intricate beadwork, which took around 150 hours to complete.

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The “tutti-frutti colorways” that permeate the collection are inspired, Jones says, by Miami’s Art Deco architecture, identifying a cashmere suit in Pacific blue as his favorite look from the collection. Shirts, one layered over another, are cut from Japanese marbled silk; ties repeat printed with Dior in a hand scrawl and snakeskin trousers are styled with cricket jumpers; silk bombers and jackets finished with hand-stitched buttons reminiscent of the bar jackets.

“There are three American designers who have really been in my life since I was young,” Jones explains. “Ralph Lauren (he built a lifestyle that’s beyond fantasy and that everyone wants to aspire to), Marc Jacobs (he’s been instrumental in my career because he brought me to Louis Vuitton) and Shawn Stussy, an artist who has created iconic graphic style. Shawn used to do fantastic advertising campaigns where he would take an image of the Venus de Milo, for example, and then draw on top of it. He created a community around work. The first thing he put his name on was a surfboard; now 40 years later we’re here putting on Christian Dior.”

What’s the key to the perfect Kim Jones collaboration?
Kaws, Daniel Arsham, Hajime Sorayama… Jones has engineered some of the most memorable fashion designer and artist collaborations. The common thread that binds them? “They all have confidence in the way they draw, that’s how I choose who to work with,” the designer replies. For pre-fall, Stussy created several original artworks that are used as prints for the clothes and accessories. “It surprises me that there are so many people around the world who really know everything about my work and collect it,” Stussy says. “Kim and his team explored this culture. The whole process was really collaborative. For example, the graphics I turned in were in black and white, and then Dior applied the color and couture techniques like beading.”

The art was emblazoned onto the set too – its arched ceiling was designed to look like the crest of a wave – while the soundtrack of Skunk Anansie, which evolved into a medley of disparate genres from electronica to house and disco, reflected the lively graphics. “Shawn lives between Hawaii and the South of France,” Jones says. “He’s a free spirit and I really admire that about him. Every single person we work with, they bring us something, you bring them something – it’s an exchange that makes people think in different ways.”

But Stussy wasn’t the only collaboration this season. Jones, who has a long-term contract with Nike, also worked with Jordan to create a rarefied version of the Air Jordan 1 sneaker, a partnership that has been a year and a half in the making. The shoe was made in a thick Italian leather in the trademark Dior grey, its pattern altered to make it more three-dimensional and emphasize the painted edges – a technique adopted from Dior bags along with the obliqued canvas that is used for the tick emblem. Even the aglets have been embossed with Dior and the Jumpman logo. “I’m a bit of a snob about all these things,” Jones confesses. “I don’t care where people come from, what their background is, I have to be working with the best of the best. That is very important.”

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