You could smell the garden set of the Dior men’s show even before you saw it: a staggering 19,000 plants were dotted across a real lawn inside the venue, a tent erected on the grounds of the church and monastery of the Val-de-Grâce in Paris, where the flowers will be planted after the event.
At either end of the runway stood two houses: smaller-scale reproductions of Christian Dior’s childhood home in Granville, France, and Charleston, the farmhouse in England that Bloomsbury Group painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Ball transformed into a living work of art, beginning in 1916.
Kim Jones, artistic director of menswear at Dior, has been doubling down on his exploration of the house’s history as it marks its 75th anniversary. Having discovered both Dior and Grant in his teens, he was struck by the similarities between the two, who were born on the same day, 20 years apart.
“I just thought it was interesting to have a conversation between two men that have had a big impact on my life that I’ve never met,” he said, noting they both lived in grand houses that revolved around gardens, and dedicated their lives to art and beauty.
It was the starting point of a collection that mixed elegant tailoring, inspired by Dior’s revolutionary New Look, with gardening and hiking influences, in the form of technical outerwear, some of it embellished with prints drawn from Grant’s artworks and furniture designs.
Featured works included his “Lilypond Screen,” made around 1913, one of the many Bloomsbury Group works in the designer’s private collection. Jones also had unprecedented access to the 10,000 works of art held by the Charleston Trust, many of which have never been seen publicly.
“I just chose things that I personally really loved of his work,” he said, mentioning the painting “Musicians,” which was reproduced on a sweater, and a fan design that was embroidered on a transparent tulle top. Jones drew evenly from Charleston’s collection and his own. “Eventually all my stuff will become theirs anyway. That’s what I intend to do with all of it,” he said.
There were elements of Grant’s personal style, such as the straw hat that he wore to paint, rendered by milliner Stephen Jones in a 3D-printed version in an openwork pattern inspired by the pergola in Dior’s garden. In a similar vein, the label’s signature cannage motif was carved out and molded into futuristic sandals made from a single piece of recycled rubber.
“There’s quite a lot of techiness in it because I didn’t want it to look historic at all. I wanted it to feel current,” said Jones.
In one of its most surprising collaborations to date, Dior collaborated with Mystery Ranch, which bills itself as the maker of “the best load-bearing equipment in the world,” on a series of utilitarian Saddle bags, belt bags and rucksacks. For those averse to technical gear, the backpacks came with intricately embroidered detachable covers.
Then there were the variations on Dior’s Bar jacket, made in semi-transparent silk organza that revealed the construction of the garment. Jones also offered a fresh take on his signature side-buttoned Tailleur Oblique, with suit jackets featuring a layered lapel that resembled a pair of buttoned sleeves.
With its soft gradations of dusty pinks, pale grays and pastel hues, the outfits were grounded in the natural world and its ever-changing light — even if they’re unlikely to be put through their paces in the great outdoors. For this brand of chic workwear, no green thumbs required.