Guests arriving at the Dior men’s show, held in a massive tent on Place de la Concorde, had to weave their way around large glass boxes erected in the center of the catwalk as security guards linked hands to protect the fragile set.
As the lights went down, multicolored smoke filled the cases, creating a dramatic backdrop for the first exit: a Dior gray satin opera coat with an oversize fringed rosette, paired with a paisley-embroidered silk sweater, pin-striped pants and white evening gloves.
The inspiration for the flamboyant get-up? Judy Blame, the iconoclastic stylist, jeweler and art director who helped create seminal album covers like Neneh Cherry’s “Raw Like Sushi” and Björk’s “Debut.”
Creative director Kim Jones met Blame when he was just 16, and the two developed a lifelong friendship. Friday’s show was both a tribute to the London punk aesthetic and a reverential tour of the Dior archives. “It’s things Judy would have loved,” Jones said in a preview. “I was sort of looking at it through his eyes.”
Evening gloves, some in pastel tones, others covered in a pearl-embossed Dior Oblique motif, accessorized every look. Blame’s signature safety-pin jewelry glittered from coat lapels, while zips glinted from berets, trenchcoats and bomber jackets, which spliced open at the front and back in an elegant flourish.
At times, it felt like club kids and city bankers had met for a wardrobe swap. A distressed sweater was paired with slick suit pants, while a tailored jacket was topped off with a coin-embellished scarf. A mink coat featured trompe-l’oeil shaved buttons and pockets that took 40 hours to complete.
Flowing silk tunics reprised historic Dior patterns, including a newspaper print from the days of John Galliano, a member of Blame’s Eighties club kid gang. They were layered under everything from suit jackets with inset lapels to sweaters in a graphic intarsia Toile de Judy motif, a play on Dior’s signature Toile de Jouy. It was a clever illustration of Blame’s talent for transforming a look with a simple twist.
Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who worked with him on countless shoots, said the stylist did not care about fame. “His mantra was: ‘Available nowhere,’” he recalled at the show. “What I loved about that whole gang was that they were like penniless aristocrats: punk, and at the same time extremely sophisticated. “
Meanwhile, Cherry was gearing up for the reissue of “Raw Like Sushi” this month. “It’s been bloody 30 years. I cannot believe it,” she exclaimed. “Sometimes, I think, you just strike lucky and you capture something that maybe is very much of its time, but can also maybe be kind of timeless. And so I guess I just feel kind of honored.”
For Jones, the show marked a shift in approach after a series of collaborations with artists including Kaws, Raymond Pettibon and Daniel Arsham. “There’s the people that are living that I love working with, and there’s the people that have gone which I really respect,” he said. “I just wanted it to be celebratory.”
With its rousing soundtrack and echoes of a carefree past, the show was a gust of fresh air. Blame, who was famously acerbic, might have scoffed at such an outsize homage, but his godson Isaac Murai-Rolfe, who helps to run the Trust Judy Blame foundation, thinks he would be flattered.
“It was a secret ambition of his to have his work brought to this wider audience. He really appreciated and loved couture, and all of the really major fashion houses, in his own kind of way, even if he would be quite brutal about them. For us, it’s like the culmination of something,” he said.
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