24 Jun 2024 ///

Kim Jones’ Dior collaborates with South African ceramicist Hylton Nel for SS25

There is no ceasing the influence and presence of South Africans on the global fashion stage – least not in the beating of the industry’s fashion capital, Paris. Kim Jones, the lauded designer and current creative director at the helm of Dior Homme, sought out a singular, South African figure to embolden his latest collection for Spring / Summer 2025, with Karoo-raised and based artist Hylton Nel as an influence on both the set design for the show and as a through-line reference in the collection itself. 

Hylton Nel is a notable figure in South Africa’s artistic landscape; his whimsical designs are underpinned by a tongue-in-cheek humour with surrealist motifs, characterised by a narrative quality that sees his work blur the boundary between fantasy and social commentary. Following a more ‘folk art’ tradition, drawn from his life lived in the Karoo, Nel’s work is a departure from the seriousness of fine-art – and it was precisely this that saw Kim Jones travel to Karoo to meet Hylton Nel and invite him to be part of a Dior show. As Kim Jones notes in the label’s show reels, “I was thinking that Hilton’s work could lend itself to a collection – so I went to see him in the Karoo. I wanted to do the set as a very, very large scale of his works. The idea of these ceramic giants that the models walk around, I just wanted a slight fun element.”

The set for Dior Menswear SS25 saw six massive reproductions of Hylton’s signature ‘cats’ dot the runway, marking a flowing obstacle for the models to weave around. Signature to Nel’s cats are their anthropomorphic quality; human-esque, and expressing individual attitude and personality. As Nel explains, “I like to do people but people are so in ‘your face as it were’ so I do it in the form of a cat!” 

Hylton Nel’s inspiration was seen in the collection itself. Kim Jones invited artisan sculptor Blanka Favin to construct a series of ceramic neck pieces pulled from Dior’s archive of collar styles, recreating the ceramic style of Hylton Nel – while tote bag figures some tongue-in-cheek epitaphs, in Nel’s scrawled handwriting, with phrases like “Dior for my real friends” alongside ceramic brooches, also rendered in the style of Hylton Nel. In addition, Cape Town based brand Earth Age, were commissioned by Kim Jones and iconic milliner Stephen Jones to craft a collection of crochet hats; handcrafted by women in Cape Town; how beautiful.   

To be celebrated in this way is such a beautiful honour for an artist like Hylton Nel – who turns 83 this year – and who was seen in the front row of the show and proudly photographed in front of one of his pieces. Nel remarked that “Kim Jones, he took my work as inspiration for a starting point. For me, it was just marvellous to see what he made from it.” For a designer such as Kim Jones to search the world for a reference to embed within his show saw him travelling six hours from Cape Town to the Karoo. This is the power of fashion and collaboration, of art and earnestness – and  anything is possible. Our nation’s creative influence is living proof.

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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