Since he started at Dior in early 2018, Kim Jones has put collaborations at the center of his vision. They were a passion of Christian Dior’s, as Jones has pointed out. They are also the defining artistic practice of Jones’s own age, with brands from Opening Ceremony to Supreme to Jones’s Louis Vuitton positioning new collections or drops as expressions of one brand’s ethos under the influence of another’s. It’s a curiosity in this partisan age—politicians could learn a thing or two!
This season, Jones opted not to center his collection around a collaboration per se, though it was both collaborative in spirit and an homage, dedicated to Judy Blame, the British dandy iconoclast who died in 2018. Jones was an admirer and friend of Blame, who practically invented the mythologic fashion stylist-designer-muse role that is requisite in any great style scene. Jones idolized him in his teenage years, and met him at a nightclub while studying at Central Saint Martins in the late ’90s. The two officially collaborated on Jones’s Fall 2015 collection for Vuitton, inspired by the prints of cult London designer Christopher Nemeth, which featured Blame’s signature jangly, jumbled jewelry.
This collection was a full-on love note to Blame’s approach to craft and his exuberant panache, and you could see that Jones felt this one—it was juiced with a passion that your standard collaboration often lacks. Blame is perhaps best known by casual fashion fans for heaping together pins, necklaces, and belts from rope, chain, charms, spikes, and various (sometimes unthinkable) pieces of litter found on the banks of the River Thames. Jones enlisted Blame’s former studio assistant, Karlie Shelley, to create pieces for Dior that were fastened to berets and trousers, and their handmade quality heightened Jones’s reverence for handcraft. Fashion shows at the Dior level—in a huge room, among my close personal boldfaces like Kate Moss—can be overwhelming, but even these little details gave the collection big heart.
More significant though, was the attitude of extreme elegance that Jones imported from Blame. A handful of superstar menswear’s designers, like Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy and John Galliano at Maison Margiela, are injecting couturier technique and spirit into their work, but Jones’s ode to Blame gave the dazzling opera coats, silk rosettes, and sparkling gloves a rakish reason for being, an expression of joy drawn from someone who really knew how to make an impression with an ensemble. (Blame, famously, would spend days putting together outfits to go clubbing.) Couture for men can risk a squeaky campiness, but this show had an air of rigorous style and invention; the way the models slung their hands in their pockets, the flow of the satin ribbons, the bunched sleeves over elbow-length gloves. Part of Jones’s mandate is to make commercial pieces, of course, but here the eager and rich styling felt like a vision for customers to dig into, rather than the merchandising expertise of a corporate fashion entity. That’s the kind of thing that creates influence way beyond the realm of men who can afford Dior. (Plus, I always like it when a fashion designer drives men and women to books, Wikipedia, records, whatever, to find out about someone who should be a god to them. We can’t all get dressed by tying scarves around our heads like A$AP Rocky!)
Jones is one of the coolest guys in the industry, a cult figure in both the world of streetwear and high fashion’s demi-underground circles before he became the Dior superstar. Between this paean to a man who was clearly Jones’s hero, and his cool cat-old heads collaboration with Shawn Stussy, it feels as if Jones is asserting his own terrific taste. This show was a game-changer.