'Elevated But Effortless': Kim Jones Is Completely Reinventing Dior Men's
The Rue de Marignan is one of those thin, short streets in Paris that epitomize discretion. Tucked behind the Champs-Elysées, it’s the kind of place where le Carré would have placed a safe house. No wonder Dior—always subtle, always understated—keeps its men’s headquarters here.
And yet, on this warm June afternoon . . .
Two people in sunglasses emerge from Dior, intent on navigating the gap between the door they’ve exited through and the car that awaits them.
Photographers yell and click. Horns honk. Passersby gaze but pretend not to stare. They are French, after all.
So much for discreet.
But then again, this celebrity pilgrimage, this paparazzi catwalk, is one big reason Kim Jones has been brought on as Dior’s new menswear designer. Because this is where fashion is right now, and Jones—a humble, unpretentious bloke from London—is likely the true genius-godhead of our current Fashion Moment, the man who more than a decade ago didn’t just foresee that the street and the runway were going to fuse—he led the melding. Maybe that’s why his crowning achievement (and in the eyes of some snobs, his most unforgivable sin) came during his previous stint, at Louis Vuitton, where he engineered a collaboration between the French fashion house and the streetwear juggernaut Supreme.
Kanye has bum-rushed my appointment time, and an hour later, when I am finally ushered upstairs, Jones is a bit embarrassed. “I’m sorry about the delay,” he says. “I couldn’t say no to Kanye. He and Virgil used to sleep on my couch back when they were wanting to learn about fashion. I hope you understand.”
As I stand with Jones the day before his debut show, it’s clear that he has already yanked Dior in a bold new direction. Up to now, it had always been an unsurprising couture house, known in menswear for pretty much one thing: razor-edged black suits, best worn by young actors on red carpets. With Jones, the black has been banished, as has the skintight fit. Everywhere I look in the atelier, there are suits in soft pastels and softer silhouettes.
“I want Dior to look elegant, fresh,” Jones tells me as he pulls me over to a poster board bearing reference shots of the models who will walk in the show the next day, each wearing one of the 49 looks. “And I want the collection to be light and easy. Because the way men dress right now is interesting to me.”
And what exactly does interesting mean?
“Men today want to feel good, in clothes that inspire confidence. At different times you feel like different things—why not mix it up?” He pauses for a moment and adjusts some of the photographs on the board before us. “Just today I’ve changed four times because I get hot, then I get cold. I want to make things that make men’s lives easier.”
Maybe the coolest thing Jones is doing is reminding us how rebellious and beautiful the suit can be, especially in his hands. In this era of streetwear-athleisure dominance he helped create, the 39-year-old designer shows us that tailoring can be daring too. Not a moody, blend-into-the-black suit but one that embraces color, one that is cut for comfort.
“It’s time for a completely different approach,” Jones says. “Guys want to dress up right now, but they want it to feel easy. Dior has that legacy of couture, and I thought the tailoring was essential. But it’s relaxed. This is elevated but effortless.”
“It’s time for a completely different approach.”
If anyone can deconstruct the Dior suit, it’s Jones, who has never been one to stand on ceremony. As a London teenager, he fell in love with fashion by way of music and magazines, making T-shirts for his friends to wear when they went out. “In college, we would swap things and then I started making and selling them,” he says. “It all happened so fast.” He went to Central Saint Martins college (a sort of Juilliard of the fashion world), where he caught the attention of John Galliano. He launched his own label and ran it for five years. Next, he took the top job at Dunhill in 2008, then he took over Vuitton, and now...
Even though it is less than a day before his collection debuts, Jones is calm. “I focus on the work,” he says, as we look at a tray of accessories. “And trust my instinct.” At this point, an assistant interrupts. “We need you for a fitting.”
Jones apologizes for cutting the time short. “So much to do. But it will all get done.”
The next day, he unveils his first collection for Dior, and the reviews are near unanimous. He’s done it, all right. And he’s only just getting started.
Michael Hainey is the executive director of Editorial at Esquire magazine. He is the author of the best-selling memoir about fathers and sons, After Visiting Friends.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.