By reviving Dior’s signature blazer cut for FW22, Kim Jones has crafted the ultimate homage to the maison and the man who founded it.
Every designer who has worked for maison Christian Dior since Monsieur himself passed away in 1957 has had to contend with his “spirit.” Tasked with obediently musing on what the founder created over the course of the 10 short postwar years in which he reshaped women’s fashion with corsets and full skirts, must be creatively grueling for the next in line. Trickier still for a men’s designer like Kim Jones: going back only a few decades, the Dior reputation in menswear was simply that the house provided office-ready gray suits, suitable for conservative middle management. Today, there’s a whole new idiosyncratic, multifaceted global demographic to appeal to, and yet, a heritage that must be honored and maintained.
Jones has set about putting his own imprint on the business by collaborating with an impressive roster of artists and musicians and continuing to place tailoring at its core – not going so far as to scare off the existing customer (those diehard purveyors of the gray suit), but by expertly and incrementally transferring flourishes and techniques from the women’s couture side of the house.
During his SS19 debut, Jones declared it time for couture values to be imported into menswear. “I’d call it romantic, rather than feminine,” he said. The show notes were headed Dior, not Dior Homme, and he absorbed and creatively responded to the savoir faire of in-house skills– there were suits, the jackets wrapped and buttoned a little off-center, with a cut named Oblique in reference to a 1955 Dior couture collection. The following season, the 50s provided further inspiration with the integration of a diagonal sash, wrapped like a cummerbund on tailored jackets – 3D draping that Jones credited to “looking at the cut of a 1955 dress in the Dior archive.”
With its signature hourglass line, the Bar jacket is perhaps Dior’s best-known signature cut, triggering a fashion revolution when it was presented as part of Monsieur Dior’s 1947 haute couture debut. Taking its name from the bar at the Plaza Athénée that was frequented by the founder himself, the original Bar jacket was constructed from four yards of silk shantung in a soft ivory shade and padded at the hipline for a more rounded, feminine shape. Paired with a voluminous, pleated black Corolle skirt, it was a dramatic statement at a time when fabric consumption was still restricted. The New Look had arrived.
Reworked and updated in almost all of the 22 couture collections Monsieur Dior designed until his death, the Bar was firmly embedded in the house DNA, its legacy secured for future appraisal. During his tenure at the house, Yves Saint Laurent (1957-1960) elongated its signature shape into a new design he called the Trapeze line, while Marc Bohan (1960-1989) softened volumes, favoring a refined silhouette worn by Princess Grace of Monaco and Sophia Loren. Gianfranco Ferré (1989-1997) and John Galliano (1997-2011) indulged in the drama of the original Bar, offering extravagant versions framed within equally spectacular shows. And then Raf Simons quietly took the baton (2012-2015), offering a confidently modernist, sculptural style that echoed Monsieur Dior’s love of architecture, displacing and shifting elements of the Bar jacket into other garments. Today, the Bar continues to show up in almost all of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s womenswear offerings, its hyperfeminine shape perfectly offset with slogan T-shirts or reimagined in cheetah print.
With a belief that men’s fashion can move forward by accessing the elegance of the past while challenging rigid gendered binaries, Jones is constructing a new future for Dior menswear. For FW22, he celebrated the maison’s 75th anniversary by reinterpreting house codes, including the Bar jacket, which was fitted to create the illusion of an hourglass figure on the almost curveless silhouette of the male body. “I wanted to look at the archive, at the purity of the beginnings of the house, at its original impulse,” says Jones. “We looked at the initial collections and focused on the architecture, taking these elements and transforming them almost instinctively in a masculine way for today.”
The result is a greatest hits homage to the couturier’s signature silhouettes, many bathed in his favorite Dior gray and reworked into something that would still resonate with millennials and Gen Z customers across the globe. Traditional fabrics, including Pied-de-poule and Prince de Galle, are reimagined as updated and deconstructed versions of the Bar, with exposed canvas, raw seams, and hand-stitching. Paired with elegant cashmere track pants and shirts overlaid with a delicately embroidered sheer sheath, the look is both youthful and classic. “The thing about Dior is it still looks modern when you see pieces from the archive,” says Jones. “That’s probably why it’s still here, and so big.”
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Vogue Man Arabia