Fashion

For Dior, The Air Jordan, And Shawn Stussy, Collabs Make Perfect Sense

In an age of knee-jerk collaboration, Kim Jones has brewed an organic partnership.
IMAGE FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY IMAGES
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Earlier this year, at our very own Esquire Townhouse, Dior Men's creative director Kim Jones discussed the wide river delta of his inspirations, and its one source: his roots. Which, unsurprisingly, are just as diverse as his mood boards. He spent a portion of his childhood in Africa, from Ethiopia, to Botswana, to Tanzania. He was introduced to club culture by way of The Face and his sister's old records. He trained under Central St. Martin's matriarch, the late Louise Wilson, who was as big an influence on Jones as she was on his fellow game-changing designers, such as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, and Jonathan Saunders.

All of which nudged the designer toward long-standing success. But, among the patchwork blanket of inspiration, an affinity for streetwear has been ever-present in Jones's body of work. Perhaps borne of formative years spent in London, the designer's first, namesake brand released lots of stuff that defined early-Noughties streetwear. So graphic hoodies, for instance. Boxy track jackets. Later, he collaborated with Umbro. Which all meant that his landmark 2017 Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration was not just revolutionary in the way it married luxury and street culture, but also felt authentic. Where other designers see streetwear as a commercial opportunity, Kim Jones has always loved it. Which is why the hook-up set a sales record matched only by Virgil Abloh.

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Jones, in short, gets it. So, when Dior Men tapped both Shawn Stussy and Jordan Brand for collabs in its pre-fall 2020 show, menswear didn't roll its eyes. Instead, they widened. In an age of cynical collabs that are designed to engage with the bottom line, rather than the culture, this was, again, radical: a high-fashion-meets-streetwear hook-up that felt real.

And it showed. Stussy, the man who arguably set the entire movement in motion when he founded his eponymous brand in the early Eighties, came out of retirement to lend Jones his penmanship. Tropical knits were scrawled with Dior's name in a brand new font, bringing the once low-culture art of graffiti to high-end luxury fashion alongside texture clashes, fluoro palettes and bucket hats, all set to a thumping Black Madonna remix of synth queen Georgia's 'About Work The Dancefloor'. Jones revealed to WWD that he'd been obsessed with Stüssy as a teen. The love had come full circle. The new shape was a natural fit.

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Photo by NIKE/GETTY IMAGES.
Photo by GETTY IMAGES.
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Look south and you'll spot the show's other breath-stealing collaboration: the Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior. As a teaser for a wider, forthcoming creative mind-meld, Jones's spin arrived to coincide with 35th anniversary of the Air Jordan, and was an apt way to mark Dior Men's first runway show on American soil (the show itself was a well-attended Miami bash on the eve of Art Basel).

But this isn't just Kim Jones being Kim Jones. In the short time, he's helmed Dior Men's, the designer has hammered home the importance of the brand's history, and how its signature cannot, and should not, be erased in favor of today's flavor of the nanosecond. That means tempering the new with the old. Which, granted, sounds like the marketing spiel from every other brand ever. But Jones' vision of fashion isn't a world away from Monsieur Christian Dior himself. The famed designer was just as excited about treading new ground, both literally and artistically. His publicist was American. He even had an unexpected collaboration with Cadillac in 1955.

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So the ground has always been fertile for this kind of transatlantic cross-pollination. Dior Men has a creative director who loves streetwear, and has shown that love by living in it. Dior has a founder who was no stranger to innovation. And, two months before the big Miami debut, onstage at Esquire Townhouse, the current guardian of Dior Men anchored his outfit with a pair of trainers that were all too familiar: the very limited, very obsessed over Fragment rework of the Air Jordan 1s. If the shoe fits.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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