WWhen fashion designer Kim Jones stepped down as Louis Vuitton’s male artistic director in 2018, after seven years, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell literally pulled him off the runway at the Grand Palais in Paris. Dressed in monogrammed coats and boots of LV, the supermodels, and part of Jones’ star-studded inner circle that also includes the Beckhams, they each took one hand and gave it a flashy goodbye on social media. Coming out of Jones, Jones more than proved his worth at Vuitton, making it one of the most influential menswear brands and managing the successful collaboration with Supreme, one of those fashion moments people call a “game changer.” This intersection of high fashion with streetwear can sum up almost an entire era of menswear, one in which Jones has been instrumental.
The past month celebrated several milestones: 20 years since he graduated from Central Saint Martins, 10 years since he assumed the role of Vuitton and three years since he was appointed artistic director of Dior Men. Not that Jones is the type to look back. He is too busy. It’s just an edited guest Vogue Italia with cover stars like Demi Moore and also this month her collaboration with Converse went on sale. This was a crafty move for Converse as Jones has reached sneaker form.
Since his arrival at Dior, his work has been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. Last year, the Dior Air sneaker saw 5 million people sign up in nine hours for a chance to buy a pair, while its reinvention of the brand’s Saddle bag for men has also seen strong sales. At the other end of the spectrum, Jones has infused couture codes into Dior’s men’s offering, mixing it with sportswear to create a modern wardrobe for a Parisian house that opened in 1946.
This January Jones, via FaceTime, sporting a black hoodie, her freshly bleached short hair, sitting in her glorious library at her London home, is preparing for several shows, including her first feminine couture collection for Fendi. , where he replaced the late Karl. Lagerfeld as Artistic Director of Women’s Fashion. We talked about how he thinks the Dior man has evolved since he took office. “There are many more, that’s all I can say! It has a huge global reach now and I am proud of that. It’s a very diverse group of men. “
Meanwhile, the spring / summer 2021 collection is a moving duet between Jones and Amoako Boafo, an artist who is quickly turning into big business. In a 10 minute movie Portrait of an artist Boafo, a painter of incredible rhythmic canvases, appears in his studio revealing his artistic approach. He says: “It’s a finger painting technique. I just wear my gloves and I have my colors which will be dark brown and blue and then I have some yellow and red. And I do magic with it. “
Boafo’s work is absolutely magical. It is intensely colorful. Energetic. Cheerful. He is also incredibly sympathetic to fashion in the sense that these portraits of black men and women are often depicted heavily dressed in what fashion people call “a look.” “The environment of my subjects and their clothing are the most important elements,” says Boafo. Much of his work includes titles that refer to clothing, such as Baby Blue Suit, Checkered Beret, Self-Portrait with Pink Pants, The Lemon Bathing Suit. “I love fashion. Fashion inspires my work. So, I tend to look at characters who have that sense of style in fashion,” explains Boafo.
Jones remembers the first time he saw Boafo’s work in person. Without hesitation, he says, “I fell in love.” He smiles. “I loved the technique. He reminded me of Egon Schiele in a funny way, and when you go to art school that’s something everyone sees. It was very authentically West African, but it also has a European flair. I couldn’t really describe it, but it was that interesting, figurative movement in the work, and the way he painted the faces, that really interested me. “
In the film featuring two acts, one directed by Chris Cunningham and the other by Jackie Nickerson, there is a frenzied and fantastic montage sequence where Dior outfits, all worn by black models, collide with Boafo’s paintings. Explicitly underlines the synergy between fashion and art. The 31 outfits in the collection, created during the pandemic, are envisioned as a dialogue between Boafo and Jones, with the artist’s work infused throughout, particularly clear in color palette, texture, and even style.
When asked how he thought he would translate Boafo’s paintings into clothing, Jones nearly jumped out of his seat. “OMG, I saw texture! I saw footprints! I saw a million ideas at once when I really saw them. There was a room in the Rubell Museum [in Miami] where was I like ping! Whistle! Whistle! It was a no-brainer! “The brush strokes, based on a photo Jones took of Boafo’s canvases in his studio, are developed into a jacquard, the ribbed fabrics are designed to echo the surface of the painting, while the images of the artist are translated through embroidery and intarsia on clothing. An ivy-patterned shirt from the collection is a brilliant coincidence; Jones had been looking at an ivy-patterned dress in the Dior archives when he visited Boafo’s studio, A Green Beret painting, which would become the invitation to the parade, was there with a man in an ivy print shirt!
“I was looking at what he wears,” says Jones de Boafo, who already wore Dior before this collaboration. “It is very much a portrait of an artist. I wanted it to be about him. It was time to celebrate a black artist when you see all these horrible things happening in the world. “He pauses.” It wasn’t meant to be a statement at the time, it just turned out to be a coincidence and it was a non-political message, but I also said, let’s celebrate and show support and solidarity to the people who support our business, you know? “
Jones ‘personal connection to Africa, having spent his childhood growing up in countries such as Ethiopia, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Boafo’s native Ghana (Jones’ father was a hydrologist and his mother a writer) was also central to the collaboration. “I was mainly in Eastern and Southern Africa, not South Africa. But I was very aware of art across the continent because it was something that interested me from a young age, ”says Jones. “I was drawing all the time. I still have all the drawings of all the animals that I made in Africa, miraculously in boxes. I’m good enough at keeping a file! Ethiopian art is something that has stayed with me, as we had a lot of it at home and it was one of the countries where my father lived the longest, but interestingly, Ghana was his favorite. So there is also an affiliation. “
Another connection! Boafo, who was born in Accra, also says that he started drawing as a child. “I had some friends who were also interested in drawing, so we just sat down and competed and saw who was the best at drawing. And that’s how it started ”, he reveals in the Dior film. He moved to Vienna in 2013. “My art instantly changed as my environment changed and at some point I felt what it meant to be an artist. Because that’s when the rebellious attitude of my work stood out because I lived in a place that lacks diversity. I needed to get into my art in a political way ”. A central element of his work is the juxtaposition of contemporary portraiture and historical techniques. He uses a method of transferring photos directly onto canvas, with wrapping papers that he selects for his patterns, while his finger painting technique allows him to achieve “an expressive skin tone” that a paintbrush cannot.
He cites Kehinde Wiley, Kerry James Marshall, and Toyin Ojih Odutola as inspiring artists. “What I really wanted to foster in Vienna was a conversation with contemporary black artists, along with my own experiences in Ghana. It was about coding the nuances of skin color. “As part of the collaboration, Dior is also supporting the artist in setting up an art residency in Accra this year.” My intention with the residency is to be part of a network growing number of organizations and spaces that focus on supporting the local art scene, ”says Boafo.
Boafo and Jones spent time together in Accra. “We started talking before Covid, but the main aspects of the collection were made during it,” explains Boafo. “This definitely changed the way we work, but I think almost in a positive way because they forced us to do things in a more creative way, and although from a distance, it allowed our practices to merge naturally because we were creating in spaces. in our comfort zones. “Although she added that this project made it clearer to her about the ways in which fashion and art influence each other.
This is something that is definitely not lost on Jones. His first show for Dior in June 2018 featured a giant centerpiece sculpture by KAWS and his most recent show in January was in collaboration with Peter Doig.
Jones believes that men are in fashion that offers escapism, but that it is well done, things that last are crucial in an era where sustainability is a hot topic. His hero is Sir David Attenborough. “If I could dress anyone in the world, it would be him,” he says. “It has taught the world how important the environment is and how important nature is and that we must respect it, that we are part of it instead of owning it.” Jones himself works for various conservation groups and charities to support endangered animals. Are you worried that sustainability has become a trend? Kidding “It’s a trend for people who aren’t doing it!” He says that Dior’s permanent range is primarily made up of sustainable fabrics, and that everything at Dior is being optimized to be environmentally friendly.
Jones’ debut in womenswear for Fendi was made in a striking yet Covid-friendly couture extravaganza with Moore, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. He was inspired by Virginia Woolf Orlando – Woolf is a figure that Jones is particularly obsessed with. Behind him, as we talk on his book shelves, are copies of Orlando originally owned by Vita Sackville-West, Vanessa Bell and Noël Coward. Jones spent his A-level years in Lewes, where he notes that the Bloomsbury group felt always present.
During our conversation in which he does not intend to talk about his role at Fendi, he says how important this latest professional turn is to him. “I am going to enter the field of womenswear in one of the most incredible brands in the world and I am lucky to have a co-pilot as good as Silvia Fendi who knows the brand inside and out. It is exciting. And it makes me think of Dior in a different way. “
The Dior SS21 collection is already in store and continues dior.com
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism