In a way, certain designers are time travelers. With his stints at Dunhill, Louis Vuitton, and now, artistic director at Dior Men's, Kim Jones is no stranger into diving into the past, and surfacing with things that feel right for the future. Similarly, artist Daniel Arsham re-imagines everyday objects (and objects of desire) through the lens of a futuristic, dystopian archaeologist.
His “Future Relic” series takes cameras, cassette tapes, cell phones, and other mundane items and renders them in plaster casts, purposely eroded to reveal materials like crystal, blue calcite, and rose quartz underneath. The latter two materials give a bit of their own color to the work, turning it either cobalt blue or hot pink through the residue that rises to the surface.
It's been four seasons now that Jones has been at his Dior post, and all of the previous seasons have seen him tap different artistic talents of our time. First there was Brian “KAWS” Donnelly, followed by Hajime Sorayama, and for Fall/Winter 2019, Raymond Pettibon. It's sort of become his “thing.” And there's a reason for that—Mr. Dior used to own a gallery himself. Although Jones says his name wasn't on it, as his parents “didn't want him to be a shopkeeper.” But it held some of the greatest works from artists like Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. In fact, it was where Dalí's most famous work—the melting clocks that characterize The Persistence of Memory—was first exhibited.
“When I look at his life, I don’t just look at the house. He was curating longer than he was at the house designing,” says Jones. “I love art and I think it’s a really important thing. A lot of young people are really inspired by artists now and I think it’s really great that they’re interesting in seeing people’s feedback. He was really ahead of his time.”
Indeed, time seems to be the common denominator between Jones and Arsham. And it's the through-line in this collaborative collection. Sneakers like the B23 and B24 feature eroded details that channel Arsham's art, or dégradé colors on white sneakers reminiscent of the blue calcite and rose quartz that give Arsham's more colorful pieces character.
“It’s really interesting working with Daniel in the fact that he’s looking at things from the future. I always look at a collection from a perspective of what things will look like in 50 years time. It’s thinking about the legacy of the brand, and wear as well,” he adds.
What attracted Arsham the most about the opportunity to work with Dior was Jones' idea that he wanted to work with the kinds of artists he feels Mr. Dior would be interested in today, and allow them to engage with the house in a new way. One of the first things they did was visit the archive, including looking at Mr. Dior's old office. They gravitated towards the same items, and both say the relationship was synergistic from the jump.
For the show, this manifested in a plaster recreation of Mr. Dior's office before the runway, replete with a hung hat and trench coat, a telephone, and even a full desk. The idea, Arsham says, was to make it look like he had just stepped out for a moment and was about to come back.
“Kim was very insistent about spending a lot of time in thinking about the experience of the show. I wanted something very clean, very simple, so the tent is basically all white, like my universe,” says Arsham. “The first thing you see when you enter the space is a complete recreation of Christian Dior's office, but it's been calcified in my process. It's kind of this perfect relic of that moment in time.”
Arsham also made an eroded clock welcoming show attendees, and a giant eroded Dior logo sculpture in eroded rose quartz. For Arsham, this speaks to Jones' interest in the idea of decay, a sort of Japanese wabi-sabi appeal of finding the beauty in the irregular.
“They're made of a material that we associate with growth—crystal. They could be falling apart, they could be growing back together,” posits Arsham. “The floor surface that the models walk through is a gradient of pink to white sand, so as the models proceed through it they will destroy it.”
Turning Arsham's oeuvre into a full collection proved to be a challenge that showed the ability of the Dior atelier to problem-solve in order to recreate the same effect in apparel and accessories. Hat designer Stephen Jones distresses baseball caps, sometimes even removing most of the crown while leaving a frayed bill intact. Accessories designer YOON excels at miniaturizing some of Arsham's signature pieces, like an eroded book based on Mr. Dior's autobiography that unbuckles into a bracelet, or a basketball-shaped watch holder that's also been shrunken into a tiny pendant.
Through Arsham and Jones' time-traveling, they even change the past. An archival Dior newspaper print originally designed by John Galliano is re-imagined with new graphic touches referencing the two. It's sort of like the newspaper in Back to the Future that changes headlines based on the protagonists' actions—a fitting reference for Arsham.
“Working with a house like Dior, it's the utmost craftsmanship,” says Arsham. “When they brought some of the first samples to the studio it was staggering—because if I can't tell how it's made, it's a special thing, you know? There's a magic to it.”