Black Diaspora Dior
'Portrait of an Artist' by Dior as the Paris house focuses on the ideas art and ideas of Ghanaian-born painter Amoako Boafo.
A rugged Atlantic beachside in Africa opens the Dior video clip, before driving over to the studio of Boafo, a self-taught illustrator and painter whose gestural portraiture has a telling sense of proud humanity captured at ease. In effect, the latest spring summer collection is a meeting of Dior Men’s creative director Kim Jones and Boafo, best known for his series 'Black Diaspora.'
Boafo likes to paint friends, family and those he admires, who pose in front of their very portraits in this clip – wearing Dior. A group of them gathering in his Accra studio, all the way to a dashing young gent with beaded dreadlocked in a paint-splattered Dior grey hoodie. All presented online Monday, the final day of the five-day debut Paris Menswear Digital season.
“I love fashion. It inspires my work. I look at characters who have a sense of style,” explains the soft-spoken Boafo, pointing to a model called Hudson, painted in a powder blue suit.
Boafo’s celebrated series Black Diaspora is a celebration of his own identity as well as Blackness. He paints by hand, quite literally, daubing on oils with his latex glove covered fingers onto his large-scale canvases, his subjects posed before bright yellow and deep turquoise backgrounds.
“The interesting thing working with a fashion house is how they were able to transfer my finger-painting technique on to clothes,” marvelled the 36-year-old painter, who first met Jones at the Rubell Museum in Miami, outside of which Dior staged its most recent cruise collection.
A creative starting point in this exchange being an Ivy dress of Monsieur Dior, after Jones spotted that hue in a painting of Boafo named 'Green Beret' when visiting Ghana; from which he began infusing the textures, surfaces and colors into this spring summer 2021 collection.
“I really, really, really love his work. I’d wanted to work with an African artist for a long time because I grew up in Africa. And African art has always been important to me,” explains Jones. One of the few designers to seem in synch this season with the international Black Lives Matter movement, a paradigm moment in politics and society, though sadly for the moment perhaps not enough in fashion.
Initially planned for a proper runway show, the pandemic forced a different approach to this collaboration, concentrating on Boafo’s life and work, “and creating something that is very Dior. A portrait of an artist that I very much admire,” explains Jones, perched on a bar stool in a sound studio back in London.
In effect, the whole styling segues from the portraits; a colourful and noble attitude, captured in a hyper accelerated montage which underlines just how much sportswear Jones has injected into Dior. Though always blended with novel tailoring, like a striking white pinstripe jacket, whose sleeves become its lapels; or a taffeta safari that morphs into a bubble-shaped parka; or even the same powder blue hue of Boafo’s painting seen in a pair of shorts with front patch pockets. All finished by Yoon Ahn’s jewelry, which has never looked better.
The clip came in two acts. The first edited and sound-tracked by Chris Cunningham; the second by Jackie Nickerson. A series of walk-throughs by an entirely black cast, where the influence of Boafo was underlined: several of the models seen in tremendous roll-neck sweaters with beautiful profile portraits by the painter.
Noble, natty and neat; majestic and meticulous. Timely and very telling.
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