Dior and Peter Doig’s painterly vision of contemporary craftsmanship
The French luxury maison and the Trinidad-based depictor of dreams have collaborated for the label’s A/W 2021 menswear collection
In Peter Doig’s Two Trees (2017), an impressionistic, dreamlike depiction of three men silhouetted against a moonlit sea, the colourful diamond patterns, camouflage details and citrus shades of their clothing have an intense tactility. The 12ft-wide painting, idiosyncratically ambiguous in its setting, seems to hold secrets within its rich brushstrokes. The figure on the right carries a silver video camera, appearing to film the other two men, who stand next to two twisted, moss-dappled trees. For A/W21, Dior menswear artistic director Kim Jones brought a sartorially-inclined lens to Doig’s oeuvre, zooming in on the bodies in the Scottish-born, Trinidad-based artist’s paintings, which draw from a wide range of photographic and artistic references (boldly hued hockey players, spectral Napoleonic soldiers, fiery lions, and figures that nod to Rousseau and Cézanne), and transposing their silhouettes onto the catwalk.
Jones’ artist collaborations have always gone beyond a supplied image splashed on a T-shirt. At Louis Vuitton, he twice collaborated with Jake and Dinos Chapman, and since joining Dior three years ago, he has worked with a host of artists to create varied interpretations of the human figure, from Hajime Sorayama’s silver cyborgs and Daniel Arsham’s eroded sculptures to Amoako Boafo’s expressionistic finger-painted representations of Black identity and Kaws’ cartoonish forms. For the new collaboration, Jones was fascinated with translating the surfaces of Doig’s paintings, rich in layers of pigment, oil skeins and drips of paint, into intricate fabrications. ‘Peter brought in a series of amazing watercolours,’ says Jones. ‘I thought they’d work really well in mohair, which would have the same sort of colour registration.’
Dior and Peter Doig: a painterly vision of contemporary craftsmanship
In his research, Doig dived into his own archive, splicing starry skies from Milky Way (1989-90), replicating the mesmerising landscape of Pelican Island (2006) with a single bobbing canoe, sampling colours like bold orange, forest green and dusky blue, pulling out figures and fabrications, and painting new pieces. Doig was drawn to the possibility of translating paint into dense embroideries, jacquard weaves, fluffy knits and intarsia motifs. ‘Clothing that had a reference in a painting sculpted into the three-dimensional form, fitting the reality of a garment on a body, was an incredible process to witness,’ he explains.
‘Peter was in every single meeting and fitting,’ says Jones. ‘He worked with every element of the Dior studio. We’re still texting virtually every day, sending each other interesting things we’ve seen.’ Adds Doig: ‘It was exciting and inspiring working within a team, rather than solo in my studio.’
The artist was struck by the connections between the French maison and his own background. Doig had studied at Central Saint Martins in the 1980s with the milliner Stephen Jones, who has worked with Kim Jones for more than a decade and collaborated with Dior for double that time. ‘Peter carried Stephen’s hat boxes to Paris when he did his first show there,’ Jones recalls.
Doig was also intrigued to learn that Christian Dior was once a gallery director. Between 1929 and 1931, he and business partner Pierre Colle presented some of France’s earliest exhibitions by Calder, Giacometti and Dalí. ‘I think it’s important to tell the whole story of Monsieur Dior’s life,’ Jones explains. ‘It’s about looking at the people he would have been interested in today. Monsieur Dior closely collaborated with Christian Bérard, and Peter is a collector of his work.’
In the late 1980s, Doig maintained his commitment to figurative painting as the art world was thrown wide open by the conceptual and provocative Young British Artists movement. Since arriving at Dior, Jones has also professed a dedication to time-honed, artisanal craft while also bringing a fresh energy to the Parisian salon with sportswear. His A/W21 collection features a series of bowler hats and berets, sported on the catwalk with ceremonial tailoring, smart peacoats and ribbed roll-necks. These have been handcrafted by Stephen Jones and hand-painted by Doig, with motifs inspired by Bérard, and they will be sold via private appointment. ‘I’d initially only imagined an embellished badge or print,’ Jones says. ‘I love the level of craftsmanship behind the pieces. Each hat really tells a story.’
In Gasthof (2002-04), two phantasmagorical figures, one in a Napoleonic jacket and the other in a ceremonial fur-trimmed coat, stand against a colourful brick wall and a starry midnight-blue sky. The work is inspired by a photograph of Doig and a friend in a crowd scene for Stravinsky’s Petrushka while working as dressers for the English National Opera in the 1980s. But it also resembles two moustachioed self-portraits. The figures stand as gatekeepers to Doig’s dreamlike world, one which has been reinterpreted by Jones, as if they have walked through the foreground of its long green grass onto the runway. Like the layered pigments and wide-ranging references in Doig’s pieces, which span location, genre and time, so Jones is keen to delve even further into the artist’s otherworldly universe. ‘We’ve only just scratched the surface,’ he says. §