When Dior Makes Friends, Good Things Happen to Your Clothes

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Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Exclusivity lies at the very heart of luxury brands. And their social lives. Because, for the longest time, blue chip brands – Vuitton, Prada and, in this instance, Dior – dined and partied and hobnobbed in an ivory tower high above regular folk. They didn't want or need to make friends. And, we humans, ever the creatures of habit, want what we can't have. Thus, millions are made on bags, clothing and accessories that capitalise on the very fumes of exclusivity.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

That's because they have brand power: a commodity controlled and wielded by switchboard operators that keep the label on a tight leash. One mustn't do anything to spoil the brand! But in recent years, it seems the reins are loosening. And, funnily enough, no brand has been spoiled in the process. Vuitton, under the steer of creative director Virgil Abloh, is on its second collab trainer with Japanese design goliath Nigo. Prada, though historically less prone to group work, now has two designers at its helm (Mrs Miuccia Prada, naturally, and king of the grail collectors, Raf Simons). It has also collaborated with Adidas in the past as part of the Luna Rossa sailing line. Even Gucci and Balenciaga hooked up in a move that upended the usual power dynamics, the sort where a major brand gives a smaller partner primetime billing in exchange for an untapped niche reserve. There was no little brother in 'Gucciaga', nor in the more recent 'Fendace' cross-pollination of Versace and Fendi, nor in the latter's recent outing with Kim Kardashian's Skims shapewear.

The queen consort of reality TV allegedly made $1m in just a minute of the collab going live. This stuff works. Now, it's Dior's turn. As one of the oldest, most respected brands still in operation, this 75-year-old label was never going to hit up Kris Jenner for margs and a bag collection. But it has collaborated with Alyx, the brainchild of current Givenchy kingpin Matthew Williams, and Dior's menswear arm has routinely appointed a collaborator for each seasonal collection, be that Japanese pleasurebot artist Hajime Sorayama, or a vaunted set build from vaunted NYC sculptor Daniel Arsham, or a revival of the original graphic streetwear brand from Shawn Stussy (yes, that Stüssy, who sold off the brand and the umlaut some time ago). For Dior's next big partner, it's Sacai.

First announced six months ago, Sacai's lent its signature sports-driven utility to a brand that prides itself on meticulous silhouettes and eye wincing craftsmanship (Dior calls it 'savoir-faire', which roughly translates from French to 'know how'). The result is a 57-piece collection that, despite the bomber jackets and aeroplane straps and kangaroo pouch pockets, is really quite subtle. Thank the soothing properties of monochrome. And, in a select line of jewellery, the line makes a huge step towards the original couture that carved the house's pedigree with pearls and gold monogrammed accents. Boys will be boys, and they'll continue to clutch at pearl necklaces.

What makes Dior's outing with Sacai is its standing as a capsule collection. Where previous collaborators have been enlisted as part of the big, all singing, all techno thrashing runway shows, this is a separate thing. Where Peter Doig's starry paintings were only recognisable to arty types and fashionheads at the cosmic winter 2021 show, Sacai's own brand is on full display. The sparse Helvetica logo crawls up Dior's Roman 'I' on jackets, bags and berets. There is no silent partner, and Dior is happy to share the limelight, as the late, great Monsieur Christian Dior often did with artists during his gallerist days, and with brands during his couturier days. "I think of the brand as global, and [Dior], he was global," Jones told me in an interview back in 2019. "When he started Dior, he had an American publicist... and Dior did a collaboration with Cadillac in 1955. We've used this as a starting point."

Of course, brands of such stature will remain selective. Sorry Kris. But if the great, ongoing flood of collaborations has taught us anything, it's that fashion is yet to move back onto solo work. Because, ultimately, this is an exceedingly popular form of design. But in order to cut through the noise, brands also have to make sure this stuff is actually good. Not every collab does that. Kim Jones, the incumbent architect of Dior men (and, interestingly enough, Fendi too) understands all of that as a designer who cut his teeth on streetwear. He's also savvy enough to capitalise on the power of celebrity, and hype. So it is good. And in Dior's work with Sacai, it's comforting to know that fashion's top table is beginning to make a little room.

Available at Browns both online and instore at the Browns East boutique, with a launch event this weekend DJed by James Massiah

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