Last week in Paris, artistic director Kim Jones presented his latest collection for Dior Men’s. It was exactly what fans of both the fashion house and the designer would have hoped for: refined, just off-kilter enough, and supremely cool. The pieces that walked the runway, from updated suits to more-casual offerings, were aspirational and inspirational food for thought. You see them, and you immediately want them in your own closet.
That, in and of itself, is a major win. But it’s not the whole story. Because a fashion show, no matter how great the fashion, is also about theater. It’s about setting the stage and showing something to the world in a way that gives life not only to the designs but to the ideas behind them. And that’s where American artist Daniel Arsham comes in.
If you’ve been following the worlds of streetwear, design, and fashion, you probably know Arsham’s name. He’s worked with everyone from Kith to Hedi Slimane, and his perspective—rooted in historicity but unapologetically forward-thinking—is one that carries some very real weight. In his work, Arsham inhabits the role of an archaeologist, except instead of unearthing centuries-old objects, he’s creating new ones. He’s imaging what the icons of today would look like to a civilization completely divorced from our own.
It’s no surprise, considering that thought process, that Kim Jones and Dior tapped him to design the set for the house’s most recent show. “I was thinking about all the exhibitions that had been going on with Dior, and the idea of things that would be, in 50 years’ time, in those exhibitions,” says Jones in a new video that we’re premiering exclusively. “So I was looking at Daniel’s work, and he looks at the present in a future context.”
For Dior, Arsham helped create a space that felt like it had been left to ruin a thousand years ago and then reclaimed for a party. The ground was covered in an impeccably neat layer of pink sand that models would disturb as they walked, playing on the relationship between construction and destruction. And the centerpiece was a series of gigantic sculptural letters spelling out “Dior.”
They looked like they just came out of an excavation—crumbling, decaying, but also fostering new life. “Although this work feels like it’s kind of falling apart, the crystals also feel like they’re growing,” says Arsham. Each letter is actually made from polystyrene, but it looks like broken stone. And from the cracks, molded-resin crystals emerge, reaching out toward the rest of the sculpture. “So maybe,” Arsham says, “it’s actually growing to a completion of the letter.”
The idea is, simply, that we won’t always be here. But the things we create today will live on, in some form or another. Though it’s a little heady, it’s also indisputably true. Kim Jones is at the height of his powers right now. His designs feel like much-needed deep breath, in a fashion world that sometimes seems to be gasping for air in its search for tapping a new market or the next big thing.
Will that feeling remain in a few millennia? Hard to say. But looking at what Arsham and Jones conjured up, and considering the clothes in context, it seems entirely possible.