Kim Jones may be borrowing from Dior's most iconic female looks for his latest menswear collection but that doesn't mean he believes gender boundaries are ready to disappear yet. "We live in cities and they are incredibly open, but go outside and it's not the same," Jones told AFP at his studio in Paris.
"There are 40 countries in the world where if you dressed like that, you'd be killed," he said, referring to the increasing number of traditionally female clothes in menswear collections. His own new collection, presented at Paris Fashion Week on Friday, includes a male reworking of Dior's iconic female Bar Jacket and plenty of feminine touches, from earrings and handbags to a sweatshirt covered in handwoven silk flowers.
None of this raises an eyebrow at fashion shows these days, where genderless clothes and a mix of male, female and trans models have become the norm.
But the 42-year-old Jones, who travelled the globe as a child with his geologist father, has a pragmatic view of life beyond the catwalk. "I'm lucky, I grew up all over the world so I've seen it all and I understand we live in a bubble," he told AFP. "If you go to other places, you have to be respectful of the culture."
- 'People want easiness' -
Jones himself works on both sides of the divide since he has also been the womenswear and haute couture designer for Fendi since September 2020. "One thing I find now I'm doing womenswear is how constrained menswear is," he said.
"Men's clothing hasn't changed much since the 1940s." He sees his current priority -- with the world still mired in the pandemic -- as making Dior's classic styles into something more comfortable. "Easiness is what people want now -- I see it through sales, through talking to customers, everything."
It fits neatly with Jones's pioneering work at Louis Vuitton where, as artistic director from 2011 to 2018, he helped pioneer streetwear styles on the catwalk.
Now wearing three hats, he dismisses the idea that he has too much on. "I like working and I'm in a really good stride," he said. "The only problem for me now is Covid, because when I go home I have to isolate and keep away from everybody because I can't lose 10 days." He has made sure to build holidays into his hectic calendar every two months to avoid burnout.
"I'm not going to kill myself for these people. I'm not stupid!" he said with a laugh.
- On Virgil -
He struck a more sombre note as he recalled his friend and successor at Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, who died from cancer in November and had his final collection presented in Paris this week.
"I can't really talk about it still because I can't believe it's happened," Jones said.
"(Virgil and I) messaged pretty much every week. We travelled the world together. We would sit on the floor of hotel rooms, designing together with Kanye (West), Pharrell (Williams)... I feel very lucky to have known him. "It's such a waste, to imagine what he could have done."(AFP)