BY PEMA BAKSHI
In collaboration with Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo.
Dior’s menswear designer Kim Jones enlisted a historic all-Black cast of models for its menswear spring/summer 2021 collection, which was designed in collaboration with Ghanaian portrait painter Amoako Boafo.The collection, titled Portrait of an Artist, began with a film shot in London as well as Boafo’s studio in Ghana, recorded by video artist Chris Cunningham, before cutting to the presentation of the collection. As the pandemic renders fashion week a hazard, designers have been forced to get creative with their collection showings.
Jones, who spent part of his childhood in Africa, tapped Boafo for the partnership after being inspired by the artist’s series, Black Diaspora, which explores identity and black masculinity. Some pieces in the collection even included hand-painted portraits, while others included transposed prints onto coats and jumpers.The influence of Boafo’s work is evident in the clothes. Not just in the replication of prints but in the overall mood and colour scheme. Bright pieces of yellow, pink and green were anchored by neutrals; silky shirts and crisp silhouettes by textural knits and leather. Many of the looks included turtlenecks and were accessorised with berets, seemingly a nod to the Blank Panther movement’s uniform.
Boafa, who paints large oil portraits using both his fingers and brushes, said that fashion is an inspiration for his work but that what we found most interesting was how Jones was able to interpret the painter’s artistic technique onto clothes.
Given the timing—in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, and during a time of intense scrutiny of fashion houses—the all Black cast has not gone unnoticed. However, Jones told The Guardian, “it’s not political: we started this back in December…But one of the things designers can do is [reflect] the time they are in. For me, diversity is a natural thing; a reflection of the wider world.”The show sets a precedent for diverse representation in the fashion industry. With brands being called out and urged to do better following the Black Lives Matter movement, we hope to see more of these highly important milestones.