Kim Jones won Fashion Awards Designer of the Year. He draws inspiration from Beat novel On the Road to create his first London show since 2003.

On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat novel, was “sold a trillion Levi’s [and] one million espresso coffee machines”, according to William Burroughs, the writer’s friend.

Now one of the coolest books in the literary canon is in the fashion spotlight as the inspiration for a .Dior .menswear collection unveiled at a blockbuster London catwalk show.

Dior menswear show at Olympia in London. Image: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Kim Jones, the British creative director of Dior menswear is an avid collector of literary memorabilia and rare books. His collection of Beat editions and artifacts includes Kerouac’s mother’s copy Of the Road. Books inscribed by Burroughs for David Hockney. Letters between the group and the poet Allen Ginsberg, as well as his credit card.

On the catwalk, Jones’s book jacket from Jones’s early edition of Kerouac’s novel Visions of Cody was brought to life by two James Dean-like characters. Models with gelled hair and glasses wore checked shirts and sheepskin-collared trucker vests, and jeans slit high over brogues and clashing socks. Book cover T-shirts and Dior football jerseys were available to reference Kerouac’s Columbia University sports scholarship.

Jones said that American sportswear was to him the foundation of modern men’s clothing. “I wanted the collection feel a bit like a suitcase that you might take on your next road trip.” The logo-encrusted bags were clearly inspired by the way Dior keeps its profits ticking over rather than what a Beat poet would carry on the road.

Jones won the Fashion Awards’ designer of the week award last week. His dive into history marked a departure from his previous work. Jones has revitalized high-end menswear through opening it up for streetwear and “hypebeast” streetwear. He worked with Nike to develop the Air Dior sneakers and Supreme in his previous role at Louis Vuitton. Jones believes Beat literature is as close to youth culture and streetwear as sneakers or streetwear. “Models have been coming to this show for fittings and have often read Beat literature – they can quote passages from the book because they’ve read it more recently than I. It was something I read in my teens.

Kerouac was a contemporary Christian Dior who emerged on the Paris fashion scene following the second world conflict. Jones stated that although On the Road was published in 1957, the original draft was completed six years prior. There is a synergy in two approaches to how you can change the world.

He sees the 2021 anti-establishment spirit in Kerouac as being a chiming with the way young people question the identities and allegiances their parents’ generation. Jones said, “The moment a counterculture is the culture, that’s when I find it so fascinating.” “That’s why Bloomsbury is my favorite.”

Jones was Jones’s first London show since 2003. He said, “It’s an homecoming – unfortunately at a very strange time.” A selection from his personal library was shown in a temporary exhibit that was set up for the event. “We have a lot students coming to Saint Martins and it would be nice for me to see how they come up with the idea of a collection,” he said.

Jim Sampas was Kerouac’s nephew and literary executor. He consulted with Jones about the project. Sampas anticipates that there will be a revival in interest for Kerouac’s 100th birthday next year. Sampas spoke to Women’s Wear Daily about the show, saying: “I’m anticipating designs [that] draw from midcentury aesthetics [and] channel Kerouac’s energy and adventureness, with a modern twist appealing for a 2022 audience.”

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