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Kim Jones Drops a New Beat for Dior Men

The multitasking designer talks to Tim Blanks about Virgil Abloh, his new Jack Kerouac-infused collection and why he’s taking a break from collaborations to focus on ‘Dior by Dior.’

LONDON — The last time Kim Jones showed in his hometown was 2003, the year after he graduated from Central Saint Martins. London didn’t really host many menswear presentations in those days. Besides, Jones already had his eye on the bigger picture, so he hightailed to Paris. His homecoming on Thursday, with the launch of his Pre-Fall 2022 collection for Dior Men at the Olympia Exhibition Centre, was, in one way, an appropriately spectacular reflection of everything that’s happened to him since. But it also illuminated the way Jones has managed to weave his own story into the brands — from Dunhill through Louis Vuitton to Dior and Fendi — that he has shaped.

His latest Dior collection is infused with the spirit of the Beat Generation, especially Jack Kerouac and his watershed “On the Road.” Over the past few years, Jones has been building an extraordinary library of rare books and literary ephemera, and Kerouac features strongly. This boho prince might seem unlikely in the context of a French couture house, but Kerouac was writing while Christian Dior was still working. And the rebel spirit of the Beats inspired the Left Bank of Paris, which sparked Yves Saint Laurent who succeeded Dior at the house. So, it wasn’t so tricky for Jones to winkle out a connection. His ability to do so reminds me of Karl Lagerfeld’s knack for joining the dots between eras, people and places.

There is a common thread to Jones’s collaborative and curatorial endeavours though. He does love an outsider, a non-conformist, a cult figure. And he loves them even more when they band together in a group to challenge orthodoxy. His passion for Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group shaped his first foray at Fendi. Now there’s Kerouac and the Beats for Dior. And I think back to his collection of British designers from the Eighties, the scene that spun around Leigh Bowery. That’s why Jones’s collaborations have always been so interesting. They’re fired up by his own engagement with the collaborator(s). And, at their best, they’re powered by obsession.

But when we talked about his latest show for The BoF Podcast, Jones felt that it was time to take a break from the marquee collaborations and concentrate on “Dior by Dior.” In all his incarnations over the years, his love of craft has always stood out, so Dior’s ateliers have been a dreamworld for him. Like its predecessors, his latest collection revels in detail, even as it has a looser, more louche quality, in keeping with its inspiration. I’d like to see these clothes after they’ve been chucked in a beat-up old suitcase and subjected to a road-trip Kerouac-style.

As a bookish sort myself, it’s great to see Jones celebrating the ancient craft of wordsmithery, at the same time as the fashion world is obsessing over the metaverse. His show set was a manuscript scrolling as if from a typewriter (though that reminded me of Truman Capote’s putdown of Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing”). On the soundtrack, Robert Pattinson read from “On the Road” over the music of Throbbing Gristle, a typically Jonesian collision of cults. But it pays to remember that, for all his ardent curating of literary and pop-cultural relics, Jones is also, like Lagerfeld, completely un-nostalgic. His focus is always the future, one reason why his friend Virgil Abloh’s achievements were at the forefront of our conversation.

Like Virgil — and Karl, for that matter — Jones is tireless. One bonus of showing in London is that he gets to go home and sleep in his own bed. But first, that podcast.

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