How Activewear Inspired Dior Homme's S/S16 Collection

"For me, it is always about finding codes—menswear us full of them—and this is something I love." —Kris Van Assche

BY JANIE CAI | May 18, 2016 | Fashion

Photography by Adrien Dirand

Christian Dior loved flowers, his favourites being lily of the valley, followed closely by roses—opulent white whorls of petals that used to be found around his office and atelier. The Creative Director of Dior Homme, Belgian Kris Van Assche, also loves roses. He has a specific vision for the Dior man, one that he has been working on in homage to Monsieur Dior himself over the past four seasons, starting with the same delicate florals and emblems of Dior’s lucky charms for AW14, and finally, closing the fourth chapter of this story with stylised roses across assertive, athletic pieces. And though the recurring motifs of florals might be inspired directly by Dior the founder, the collection that is Dior Homme SS16 owes much of its contemporary direction to Van Assche’s cross-reference of sportive codes.

The Dior man that Van Assche envisions is one who is keenly aware of the codified world of style and fashion. It is a language that he, and others like him, are fluent in, to the extent that he sees no obstacle to breaking and mixing the codes to create his own template of dress. As Van Assche himself acknowledges, “In this collection, the dialogue with Christian Dior continues in a more abstract way. There is an insistence on the ‘Frenchness’ of Dior, both the man and the house, and what that symbolises. At the same time, the collection could be seen as an exploration of sportswear, from its traditional roots to its contemporary incarnation.” 

It is an approach that Van Assche has taken with much success. By drawing on the myriad silhouettes that activewear offers and distilling them down to the essentials, at once recognisable and familiar—the bomber jacket, the use of tech fabric such as nylon and mesh, toggle fasteners and metal zip details—he invigorates a trend. Among the sport-focused silhouettes, the parka stands out in the Dior Homme SS16 collection, its iterations appearing in khaki with a dark green camouflage lining, a fire-engine red, a classic navy, and even as a white aviation-zipper bedecked piece. Presented in a new length and with a hood, its cut in a bonded double canvas fluidly combines form and function. Multiple pockets bear all that the 21st-century man needs when on the move—phone, wallet and keys are all safely ensconced in deep recesses. In addition, he is protected from the elements without the need to sacrifice style. 

But while his coat is unmistakably sportswear-inspired in both nature and shape, closer inspection reveals that the finishing, the cut and the details are grounded in the tailoring expertise of the artisans of the Dior Atelier, as evidenced by the double-bonded Nappa leather version worn by one of the models. And just to underscore the reference, the jacket’s interior is a bright orange nylon that is directly inspired by the lining of the MA1 bomber jacket. It is a vibrant hue that Van Assche repeats throughout his collection—a lambent punctuation that serves to add another aspect of cohesiveness. 

In fact, the sportswear emblems of SS16 are not limited to just the modern codes. Heritage, too, is referenced with the use of Argyll, which originated as a tartan pattern from Scotland that was adopted by the hunting parties of England, and later, as a popular golfing pattern. Taking the form of jersey joggers and fitted T-shirts in the collection, the iconic pattern is fused with contemporary wardrobe familiars and styled with a streetwear vibe (even when it manifests as a golf-inspired pullover). 

But nowhere is the nod to activewear more apparent than in the footwear of SS16. Sneakers feature heavily and come with corded laces against a retro-styled upper of leather and suede. Even the formal shoes pick up on the sportive elements. Double-monks feature exposed zips and rubber soles, as do the collection’s leather mules, while leather lace-ups draw on the traditional hiking boot eyelet, with similar corded laces, for a shoe that looks ready to take on the trail, even as it strides down the runway. The house of Dior explains that this is “a ‘grand maison’ approach to sportswear, where the contemporary and the traditional are playfully mixed and their codes subverted.” We reckon that the Dior Homme aesthetic under Van Assche may be an upending of traditional sartorial codes, but fortunately for us, the dexterity of this synthesis means that there is always something fresh to be discovered in each collection.

From: Esquire Singapore's May 2016 issue.