From canvas to catwalk: Dior turns Peter Doig's atmospheric paintings into menswear collection

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Dior Mens Autumn/Winter 2021 Courtesy of Dior

Dior Mens Autumn/Winter 2021 Courtesy of Dior

The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

The richly atmospheric paintings of Peter Doig don’t seem the most obvious choice for translation into menswear—yet they have just made the transition from gallery to catwalk as the central inspiration for Dior’s entire Autumn Winter 2021 menswear collection.

In fact, the partnership went much deeper than a few borrowed motifs and colourways. For the past five months Doig had been working closely with Kim Jones, Dior’s artistic director of menswear and their Dior Doig collection, launched online in a filmed show on Friday.

Jones has a reputation for teaming up with contemporary artists. He brought in the Chapman brothers when he was creative director at Louis Vuitton and in 2018 made his Dior debut with a giant flower sculpture by KAWS as the centrepiece for his first show. Since then he’s worked with the sculptor Daniel Arsham and the Ghanaian painter Amoafo Boako—to whom his last menswear collection was dedicated.

Dior Mens Autumn/Winter 2021 Courtesy of Dior

But the Dior-Doig collection marks Jones’s most intensive collaboration yet. Doig was present in the studio for all the fittings and development of the collection and meticulously matched its colours with his own pigments. “He really became part of the studio for the collection” the designer told Vogue and Doig’s touch can be seen—sometimes literally—in all its elements. He has painted directly onto some of the hats, working with Dior milliner Stephen Jones, an old friend from their student days at Central St. Martins art college, and he also designed the runway set, with its towering sculptural elements based on the stacks of sound system speakers that he owns.

Peter Doig’s Two Trees (2017) Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art

On his Instagram feed Doig describes his collaboration with Dior as “an honour and [a] thrilling experience to turn ideas and dreams into colour and functional forms". The collection is infused throughout with Doig’s palette of dusky mauves, muted blues and inky midnight hues, interspersed with vivid highlights of brilliant yellow, orange and leaf green. Some outfits precisely reproduce those worn in the paintings, such as the dappled shirt and wrestler’s helmet worn by one of the figures in Doig’s Two Trees (2017) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Others incorporate specific passages, rendering Doig’s distinctive brushstrokes and surfaces in textiles and knitwear. The lions that prowl through his paintings also crop up in various forms: on belt buckles and bracelets, dramatically woven into a giant blanket, or painted onto the felt crown of a bowler hat.

And, in what seems almost like a blessing from Mr. Dior himself, these lions also find their historical reflection in a King of the Jungle masquerade costume made for the couturier in 1949. This in turn inspired Doig to make a painting of the couturier in his regal leonine garb that featured on the invitation to last week’s virtual show.

Then, just to bring the art-fashion connection full circle, let’s also not forget that Christian Dior ran a contemporary art gallery before founding his fashion house and remained lifelong friends with many of the artists he showed there, most notably Salvador Dalí, the surrealist Leonor Fini and the Neo-Romantic artist Christian Bérard, a painter Doig also greatly admires. All of which confirms the Dior-Doig collection to be a fitting convergence of two very complementary worlds.

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