For its most recent advertising campaign, Dior Homme put the male models in the background. Centre-stage was a more unlikely figure – 55-year-old Dave Gahan, frontman of Depeche Mode. Flanked by Lucas Hedges, star of Manchester by the Sea, a statement described the duo as plotting “an evolution of style that subverts the classicism of Dior Homme today”. For Saturday afternoon’s spring/summer 2018 show, Rami Malek and Christian Slater, stars of the Netflix hacker show Mr. Robot, were on hand to continue the theme. Long-term fan Karl Lagerfeld sat in the front row too.
Kris Van Assche, the artistic director of Dior Homme, is the man responsible for this subversion from the inside. This year marks his 10th year at Dior Homme – so the show was a kind of anniversary. It took place at the Grand Palais in Paris. The space familiar to the fashion crowd was transformed with a grass floor and strings of black plastic, like that found inside cassette tapes, hanging from the ceiling.
The collection was a kind of retrospective of Van Assche’s work for Dior. It focused around his signature tailoring, with sharp suiting and outerwear given a more summer-friendly twist with shorts and sleeveless jackets.
Some of the jackets were based on the Bar shape invented for women by Christian Dior in 1947. Trends were addressed too. Explicit Dior branding will be popular. Taking his cue from Maria Grazia Chiuri, who designs womenswear for Dior, T-shirts featured the logos and the Dior branded ribbons cleverly made up from the pinstripes of suits. Sportswear details were also included – the stripes on tracksuit trousers featured on tailored trousers and bomber jackets.
Gahan wasn’t there, but the influence of his era – the Eighties – was. The loose trousers had the feel of David Bowie. The music was memorable – an electronic mix of Radiohead’s Creep, R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion and Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence.
Backstage was a scrum of well-wishers, with Van Assche flanked by a security detail worthy of a rock star. The designer said the collection, which was called Late Night Summer, “was very much about this feelgood moment, also with the music, when young men realise their clothes will make a difference A kind of post-innocence.”.
Dior Homme is a brand associated with music. During Hedi Slimane’s six-year reign, that meant rock’n’roll. He featured musicians including Pete Doherty and the band Cazals in his shows, and dressed the Kills and Daft Punk onstage. He has also been credited with bringing the skinny jean, a staple of the Ramones, back into fashion. Van Assche, however, has resisted the dive bars and grubby Converse of Slimane. Instead he focuses on a more angular, electronic take on music, with the Eighties a golden era.
Van Assche sees parallels between then and now. “Now everybody is talking about androgyny and genderless fashion shows, but 20, 25 years ago he was this figure when I was a kid,” he said of Boy George, also in a Dior campaign, during an interview with the Hypebeast website. Van Assche is savvy enough, however, to know that mere nostalgia, or “theatre” won’t do.
“I always look for strong contrasts because it takes things out of their too literal context,” he said.
Van Assche is a well-liked designer but has never quite created the buzz of his predecessor. Van Assche closed his own brand in 2015, suggesting he will stay with Dior for the long haul.
Slimane remains an influential figure in fashion. After his departure from Dior Homme, he produced photography of the rock scene, before becoming the creative director of Saint Laurent for four years. The rock’n’roll take continued there, with collections based on grunge, mods and rock. He left in March 2016 and, in an interview with the New York Times in January, said he would return to photography full time.
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