The Story Behind Kim Jones’ ‘Judy Blame’ Collection for Dior Men

The artistic director of Dior Men reveals how the visionary accessories designer, art director and fashion stylist inspired his Autumn/Winter 2020 collection

“I met Judy when I was 16 in a club in Brixton,” says Kim Jones, recalling the first time he encountered the late, great accessories designer, art director and fashion stylist Judy Blame, who formed the inspiration for the designer’s Autumn/Winter 2020 collection for Dior Men. “He bought me a drink and I was starstruck and shy. Then I’d see him around... He was quite intimidating, but we got a bit close. I was never a very close friend, but we were always in conversation about publishing a book.”

It’s the eve of the show and Jones is talking to me from behind a table in a studio located in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, near the Arc de Triomphe. Sat beside casting director Shelley Durkan, he and stylist Melanie Ward are overseeing final fittings, while people – including Blame’s best friend Karlie Shelley – flow in and out of the room. The looks board stands to his right, the collection itself hangs on rails around the room and accessories sit – like precious jewels – in boxes on tables.

This collection, presented in a blockbuster show on Place de la Concorde, on the fourth day of Paris Men’s Fashion Week, represented a tribute to Judy Blame; his life, work and extraordinary visual language, as seen through the haute couture prism of the house of Dior, celebrating who he was and what he did.

“Judy was brave, actually really ahead of his time,” says Jones on what Blame represents to him. “I like the fact he supported a lot of different people in a way, something I like doing. He’s the kind of person I see as my Margiela or Helmut Lang – you know, he got it. When you think about his work, he was very cultured, it wasn’t just fashion, it was music. All these different covers and albums, the way the bands looked, he was behind that. He styled All Saints even though Mel said he slept on the sofa most of the time, but being a troublemaker... We love that.”

According to Jones, the idea of designing a collection in homage to Blame first came from Bernard Arnault, who controls and chairs the house of Dior. And while it’s not a collaboration, it was created alongside Trust Judy Blame – the foundation set up in Blame’s honour following his death, which we wrote about last September – and draws on his archives and iconography. (All proceeds from the collection will be donated to Trust Judy Blame.)

“They’ve been approving everything that we’re doing,” explains Jones. “It’s a homage to couture Christian Dior with Judy’s take on it really. We wanted it to be a literal reference, something to celebrate him and let young people know all about him. Every single look has a glove on because he loved gloves. There’s a bit of a grunginess to certain things then it’s also really upscaled, we referenced Dior in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. We have the ‘Toile de Judy’ blown up on knitwear, so the girl on the swing is present, we have the moiré coat from the 1940s, we have embroideries from the 1960s, Marc Bohan’s era... It’s a joyous celebration.”

Naturally, the fabrication is exquisite and at times just plain staggering. There’s a mink jacket, where the tips of the fibres have been bleached and then hand-cut, so that the final garment resembles a denim jacket in its most luxuriant form. Then there’s the latest iteration of the Dior Oblique Canvas, whereby the print has been rendered in beaded embroideries; one bag took over 400 hours to complete. These are just two examples of many.

In this collection, Jones succinctly and successfully combined the legacies of Blame, and the Buffalo movement to which he belonged, with the legacy of Monsieur Dior himself, producing a modern but timelessly elegant collection. Judy-isms were there in the gloves, the jewellery (designed by Yoon Ahn), the berets, the safety pins and even coins bearing his face, they were present in the styling, too. In fact the aforementioned Shelley, who worked with Blame, was brought in by Jones to help with the collection. “Kim got me in to make the bandana necklaces – which was great fun and brought back many fond memories of sewing and making with Judy over the years.”

“I loved the amount of attention to detail Kim and his team brought to this collection,” continues Shelley. “It had Judy spirit all over it and done with love and integrity. Kim and Lucy and their team are like a family – it was such a joy to be working with them and reminiscent of being with Jude... family vibes. I am so happy that Kim paid tribute to his dear friend and Judy would be very proud. He would have worn it all – enough said really. As Judy said, ‘style was an attitude’, and the attitude from which this collection was made was one of love and respect. We love and miss ya Jude and your style lives on, and so much respect to Kim Jones who Jude adored tenfold.”

Go behind the scenes at the Dior Men Autumn/Winter 2020 collection in this exclusive film by Jackie Nickerson: