Staged at the Telecom Center Building in Tokyo, the Dior Men Pre-Fall 2019 show was a full-blown affair, paying homage to the “Land of the Rising Sun”. The circular stage was constructed to revolve around the pièce de résistance – a 12-metre high sexy female robot that towered over the audience.
The 9,150kg aluminium masterpiece by artist Hajime Sorayama required a team of 16 to assemble and 20 days to paint on-site. Emblazoned on the thigh of the specially commissioned sculpture is the new futuristic Dior logotype, a representation of Sorayama’s take on Dior’s emblem. The atmosphere swiftly switched from urban metropolis to futuristic discothèque as strobe laser lights lit up the runway, its technicolour rays bouncing off the robot.
(Below) Video: The Dior Men Pre-Fall 2019 show kicked off with a futuristic light show of laser beams bouncing off its towering custom centrepiece, a 12-metre high execution of the Sexy Robot by renowned artist Hajime Sorayama.
Kim Jones’ first pre-fall show offered a glimpse into the future direction of Dior Men and all we can say is the future looks bright. Though Christian Dior has always harboured a fascination with Japan’s multifaceted culture, Jones made the collection his own by referencing the past and future, merging couture methodology with cutting-edge technology to create a fresh hybrid.
Tailoring is streamlined and utilitarian, drawing on the idea of uniforms but eschewing uniformity. A trio of essential Dior elements – houndstooth tweed, the color pink and the panthère print – are expounded, each manipulated and rediscovered. Panthère is water-coloured; houndstooth tweed is specially woven to appear distressed and worn, evocative of an imagined heritage; and Dior’s signature rose intensifies to the sakura-pink shade of Japanese cherry blossom. It is combined with an entire palette of the pearl greys synonymous with Dior.
Haute couture savoir-faire, integral to the maison’s identity, results in treatments that magically meld together furs and laces, and the diagonal line of the Dior Men’s “Tailleur Oblique” is revisited here, and newly explored in coats and knitwear. Like Monsieur Dior’s designs, this collection investigates a conversation between Western traditions of tailoring and the Japanese kimono, sensuously wrapping the body in cloth.
Alongside the old, the new, fabrics are treated with a technologically advanced metalisation technique, applied to entire items of clothing. This results in furs and leathers that glimmer like an automaton in iridescent blue and silver, while metallic printed calfskin is laser-etched to give it the supple fluidity of silk. Cannage patterns are laser-cut into rubber and leathers, the patterns bonded to denims.
In line with the theme, Jones collaborated with artist Hajime Sorayama who lends a futuristic perspective to the entire collection. The Japanese artist known for his Sexy Robot series introduced a series of metalised pieces, including the limited edition metallic update on Dior’s saddle bag, a collector’s piece where only 10 will be produced. The metalisation element extends to steel caps crafted by Milliner Stephen Jones, Tyvek jackets, jacquard suits and down puffer jackets which all seemed to glisten off the runway.
Sorayama’s signature fembots are used to decorate a series of separates in silver Mylar and, together with his animal automata, are featured as charms and pendants. Industrial-inspired chains designed by jewellery designer Yoon Ahn further strengthens the robotic theme in the form of necklaces, rings and brooches.
Known for his illustration and industrial design, Hajime Sorayama has established his position as a legendary artist, armed with an astounding sense of realistic expressional techniques. Sorayama’s extensive oeuvre that centres upon an on-going pursuit for beauty regarding the human body and the machine has continued to receive high acclaim, with the Sexy Robot series (introduced in 1978) being his signature body of work and a significant influence on the formulation of robotic imagery.
In 2001, Sorayama’s first-generation design for Sony’s entertainment robot AIBO, also noted as the first “artificially intelligent” mass-market consumer robot for entertainment applications, was added to the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institute and the Museum of Modern Art.
Sorayama is noted for his expert use of the airbrush and is considered a godfather of realistic expression. His 1983 publication Sexy Robot generously describes his process of painting robots through a series of graphic explanations and has since been distributed and referenced as a textbook in various art schools throughout the world, allowing Sorayama to make an impact on a diverse array of media, from Hollywood films to street art and fine art.
(Below) Video: Sorayama on the making of his monolithic Sexy Robot centrepiece for the Dior Men Pre-Fall 2019 show
On his adoption of the airbrush, Sorayama mentions that he was inspired by the works of the illustrator Harumi Yamaguchi. In his pursuit of hyperrealism, Sorayama appropriates the airbrush technique to convey the minute details of the human body, from the skin and facial features to the hair and eyeballs; the texture of leather and silk clothing; the metallicity of the robot and the reflection of light.
“It allows me to portray characters with acrobatic postures that are absolutely impossible to realize with photography and gives me an opportunity to create costumes that do not exist in reality. In addition, I can modify the body without being confined to anatomical limitations and have the liberty to collage and compose beautiful women in accordance to my taste,” says Sorayama.
A LONG-STANDING LOVE FOR JAPAN
Christian Dior was fascinated by Japan from an early age. “Large panels painted in the style of Japanese prints decorated the stairway up to the ceiling. These interpretations of Utamaro and Hokusai were my Sistine Chapel. I used to spend hours just gazing at them,” he wrote in his memoirs Dior by Dior, describing the ground floor of his childhood house, perched atop the cliffs at Granville, in Normandy.
In the 1950s, for a Christian Dior New York line’s fall/winter collection, he baptised one of the dresses Tokyo and, later, reprised the tribute with a spring/summer 1953 haute couture ensemble named Jardin Japonais, featuring a repeating motif of a bird on a cherry blossom, one of the Japanese emblems that had so captivated Christian Dior.
Made for the fall/winter 1954-55 collection in fabrics from the prestigious Tatsumura textile in Kyoto, the Utamaro ensemble makes reference to the Japanese painter whose gorgeous portraits of women and nature scenes so charmed the couturier’s Normandy youth. His vision of elegance would, in turn, strike a chord with Japanese women. Starting in 1953, they could discover the Dior style thanks to the Daimaru department store, which began producing clothing from patterns provided by 30 Avenue Montaigne.
In the mid-1950s, the Japanese royal family, in delegation to Paris, visited the flagship store. Subsequently, Crown Princess Michiko, the future wife of Crown Prince Akihito, would choose to be dressed by the maison for her wedding. The couturier provided three designs whose production would be overseen by Yves Saint Laurent, then creative director of the women’s collections, in 1959, the year in which the ceremony took place. Since then, Japan has inspired various creative directors of the maison, including Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and now Kim Jones, as well as hosted a number exhibitions dedicated to the house – Dior, the World of John Galliano & Tadao Ando (1999), Lady Dior As Seen By (2012).
The relationship between Dior and Japan was reinforced in 1998 with the opening of Japan’s first Dior boutique in the heart of Tokyo’s most glamorous district, Ginza. Today, the flagship boutique at Ginza Six spreads over five floors, with a unique facade evoking a tonal interaction of white sails, structured with horizontal lines and punctuated by four large windows at street level.
Inside, Peter Marino, the star architect of Dior boutiques worldwide, created a contemporary setting to host guests and the brand’s extensive range of ready-to-wear, leather goods, accessories, jewellery and timepieces, complete with a VIP salon and a cafe that provides an inviting venue for delicious refreshments.
(Below) Video and gallery: Discover the Dior Men Pre-Fall 2019 show and star-studded audience in the gallery and video below. Among the invited celebrities, all of whom sported Dior, were David Beckham, Kate Moss, Bella Hadid, Ezra Miller, Eason Chan, Nam Joo-hyuk, DJ and record producer Diplo, contemporary artist Takashi Murakami and more.