Almost exactly two year ago today, I spent a suffocatingly hot afternoon near the Arc de Triomphe watching Kim Jones putting the finishing touches on his Spring/Summer 2020 Menswear collection.
The fitting room was a like Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory for the modern fashion enthusiast. The walls were lined with tables bearing champagne suitcases made in partnership with then-new LVMH acquisition Rimowa, remixes of Galliano-era favorites like the Saddle Bag and the Dior Gazette print, and a slew of accessories and jewelry made with flourishes by Daniel Arsham, Yoon Ahn, and Matthew M. Williams.
The thing it all had in common: a knack for curating (no, accelerating) the work of others. “I'm curating what a modern Dior would be looking at,” Jones told me at the time. “For example, Raymond Pettibon's romantic vision compared with a Jean Cocteau. Daniel Arsham's work in terms of Dalí. Kaws in terms of Picasso. You have to look at those things in terms of where we are now.”
Two years later, as the industry feasts its eyes on Jones’ blockbuster collection made in collaboration with musician-turned-megabrand Travis Scott, the strategy is exactly the same.
The curatorial boulevard that runs from Christian Dior (born in 1905 in Granville) and Travis Scott (born 1992 in Houston) is winding but not so indirect. “When Christian Dior first went to the Americas, one of his first ports of call was Texas, which he loved,” Jones explained to us during this season’s fittings. “He loved it more than Los Angeles, and so I looked at that as the idea to start a collaboration with Travis Scott.”
A French couturier wandering the surreal plains of Texas, this mental image very much dominated the set design of today’s Spring 2022 Menswear show, which featured giant roses and magic mushrooms growing out of dusty pink sand. The deserts of the American West have always been a space of fantasy, an empty projection plane for the wildest creative imaginations —whether it be Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing Las Vegas or Travis Scott’s Astroworld.
The benefit of an empty desert is that it’s a space where anything can happen. And today, as the worlds of pop culture, art, and high fashion drift slowly together like tectonic plates, we’re learning to not even be too surprised about the volcanos that form, or the lava that oozes out. Was it really so shocking to hear that Travis Scott was making a burger with McDonald’s? Likewise, was it really shocking to learn about this new collection with Dior? These developments are part of the natural progression of things, and in the work of Kim Jones, collaborations don’t just surprise, they always manage to make sense.
“I met Travis six years ago and we’ve been in constant touch since then,” Jones told us, bringing the show’s history from 1947 to the present. “I started talking to Travis about the Foundation he wants to set up to allow students to go to college at Parsons School of Design that can't afford to go and fulfill their dreams. So, I thought it was nice to talk to him and say, ‘Why don't we do something together?’ Because then, you know, you're working with a fashion brand and a couture house that then can support this project as well.” This fundraising effort led to the generation of the show’s most dazzling artifacts, a series of shirts hand-painted by the artist George Condo, which will be auctioned off to fund Scott’s scholarship program.
While the setting of today’s show would lead one to expect a parade of fully yeehaw garments, there was no Old Town Road to be found in this collection. Western accents came in the form of flared tailoring, python prints, jewel-encrusted cacti, and the return of the aforementioned Saddle Bag bag to its natural habitat. There were instant fan favorites, such as a hybrid snapback-bucket hat, sweaters with oversized prints, couture-embellished track pants, and a new addition to the canon of Dior sneakers. Look 28 featured a model holding five different small leather goods all in one hand, as though to say, “Hey, buy all this stuff.”
But beyond all the highly coveted items themselves, Jones’ Spring 2022 Menswear show could be cursed to live in our minds as a talking point on the nature of collaborations. In the past month, the conversation around brand matchmaking — or as GQ’s Rachel Tashjian calls it “corporate rapscallionism” — has reached a fever pitch. Just last week, our Editorial Director Christopher Morency diagnosed the luxury industry with a Tinder addiction and our Sportswear Editor Fabian Gorsler explained how collab-inflation is destined to create a sneaker bubble. Oh, and in that same time span, Dior announced another collaborative menswear collection, with Chitose Abe’s Sacai label.
But what’s becoming more and more evident is that collaboration is just the way new ideas, garments, and artwork are generated today. In this sense, Travis Scott’s home turf of rap music is way ahead of the curve. No one in the music industry writes a think piece when Drake does a song with Lil Baby. And when you read the liner notes of an album like Astroworld, the sheer number of fellow musicians, vocalists, and producers who go into creating that one artwork is astonishing.
In the case of Dior Mens Spring 2022, you find something similar: paintings by George Condo, accessories by Matthew M. Williams and Yoon Ahn, and, of course, the contributions of Scott himself. With all of these hands involved, does it even make sense to say that what we see on the runway is Dior x Travis Scott? By operating Dior through this curatorial, extroverted approach, Jones collabs so much that it doesn’t make sense to call it collabing anymore. He’s just making things.