As fashion claims the rarefied world of fine art, designers are constantly looking to artists as potential catalysts for the next big trend. Trinidad-based painter Peter Doig, who is decidedly indifferent to publicity, however avoided such attention, until Dior approached him to collaborate on his fall / winter 2021 men’s collection alongside artistic director Kim Jones. In this world Dior meets Doig, fashion may be the bait, but it is art that shines.
Doig’s use of garish colors and figurative storytelling moves away from recognizable forms, but her artistic expression will be evident to the trained eye even though she has been sculpted into three-dimensional clothing. The bright yellow jersey worn by a helmeted hockey player from his masterpiece Two Trees – a grave image of our catastrophic times inspired by the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia – manifested in a camouflage sweater. Meanwhile, the pink-toned wandering lion from Rain in the Port of Spain now roams the surface of an Angora sweater and a series of bowler hats and berets created with British milliner Stephen Jones.
Doig is a virtuoso of unpredictability, and it was precisely this reason that sparked and made Kim Jones fanboy stand out. The cultural spirit behind Dunhill and the pioneer who brokered the sold-out collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton eschews old-fashioned ideas by basking in the joy of archival plumbing with scientific interest. Jones’ personal relationship with Africa, having spent his childhood in countries such as Ethiopia, Botswana, and Kenya, resonated with many of Doig’s works that borrow similar narrative and cultural aspects from this part of the world.
Their interwoven fate does not end there. Doig also studied at Central Saint Martins in the 1980s with Stephen Jones, who teamed up with Kim Jones for over a decade. Collaborating with Dior this time around was more of a done deal when Doig discovered that the man who created the legendary brand in 1946 was once a gallery manager who worked closely with the prodigiously talented French illustrator Christian Bérard. Coincidentally, Doig is a great collector of his works.
Since joining Dior, Kim Jones has professed her commitment to transforming ancestral craftsmanship into men’s clothing representative of “contemporary masculinity,” and Doig’s repertoire immediately hit the mark. “His work is autobiographical. We looked at his paintings of men, skiers, ice hockey players, and the night sky. I think he was fascinated with how we could reproduce his brushwork on textiles and knits, ”said Kim Jones.
That’s right, subtle fusions of relaxed and luxurious outerwear in the form of embroidered coats, military-influenced sweaters and button-up suits are pouring down the runway at Dior’s menswear show. The collection may be dominated by a palette of muted blues, navy blues, musk mallow, and grays, but vibrant hues peek out from under collars and through embroidery to express joie de vivre. Doig’s painted realism burst from its golden frame to be transported on trendy fabrics.
This season’s Dior fashion rendezvous frees the modern man by giving him permission to be different in a world where everyone is trapped in leather jackets and tailored pants. Doig’s expansive work pushed Kim Jones to venture further, creating a perfect mirror of the culture that menswear is currently taking place in while also contributing to the conversation of an edgy future. But wherever designer Dior goes for inspiration, rest assured that this cutting edge global cool compass will create the clothes worth wearing on your back.
This article first appeared on September 20, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.