Dior, under Kim Jones, has been known to lean into a wealth of references and subcultures. Late last year, the house presented a show inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, with models walking on a script-inspired catwalk and paying homage to Jones’ own literary fascination. The collection featured neutral and earthy tones, borrowed aesthetic elements from the Beat generation, and saw the house show in London for the first time since 2003.
Last night though, Dior took to LA, showing a show infused with surf, skate and colour. Driving this new aesthetic realm was a collaboration with Eli Russell Linnetz – Californian designer and artist, and director of eponymous brand ERL. The link up makes perfect sense, as does its setting in LA, as a city of contrasts. With green-juice-drinking influencers rubbing shoulders with LA’s large homeless population, a sprawling metropolis meeting the Pacific Ocean, and a meeting of all the cultures and communities America houses – it followed that the show and collection would present a similar concept of meeting of minds, references and subcultures.
For Kim Jones, Venice Beach also represents the best of a Californian gaze: looking at the area as a personification of golden-hued, idealised American culture, and a place “where all the kids were cool”, he told WWD. For Kim, ERL was one of these cool kids – and tapping him for the show allowed Dior to rework design motifs from the ERL archives, whilst celebrating Californian fashion and subcultures in a way that felt authentic.
In the show, models walked a sea-blue catwalk, flanked by waves, the sunset, and of course – the crowds. A stone’s throw from Venice beach itself, Dior pulled out all the stops – rollerbladers, skaters and people on scooters grounded the set back in its surroundings, whilst allowing garments to be seen in motion. In the collection, Dior channelled the essence of California’s laid back attitude, but updated it with rich fabric use and elevated craftsmanship. Surf and skate inspired shorts were given pastel hues or sparkling embellishments, whilst sweaters that would normally be considered as ‘grunge’ were enriched with Linnetz’ embroidery.
Elsewhere, Dior sent relaxed-tailoring down the runway, with baby blue and pink satin suits forming a standout moment. In opposition to the normally strong Californian sun, mohair also featured prominently – slung around models’ necks, forming sweaters which were emblazoned with ‘CALIFORNIA COUTURE’, or making up a fuzzy pair of boardshorts. Dior’s fabric use was evident here more so than ever, but combined with the material concerns of ERL’s designs, formed an entirely unique, and entirely Californian collection.
And whilst ERL added its flair on most garments, classic Dior motifs were also present. The house’s infamous newspaper print, now making its comeback and originally conceptualised by Galliano for Dior, was reworked to include Linnetz’ own surf photos, as well as historical adverts for Venice Beach upon its creation in the early 20th century. It-bag of the last couple of seasons, the Dior Saddle Bag, was given the gold treatment, and a chain handle added to bring it back into the more casual, skating sphere.
Not only referencing Kim Jones’ personal attachment to Venice Beach, the show also paid homage to Christian Dior’s time on the West Coast – acknowledging the influence of the area on Dior as a whole, as well as its ongoing importance for Dior as a business. Mirroring the ‘melting pot’ of LA as a whole, Dior’s California Couture brought the core elements of LA’s subcultures together, embellished them, and put them on display.
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