Kim Jones translates Amoako Boafo’s paintings into wearable art

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Designer Dior Men even recreated the berets from Boafo’s portraits, turning them into real hats.

Dior Men’s Artistic Director Kim Jones didn’t have to travel far to meet Amoako Boafo, the artist whose paintings are the basis for the Spring / Summer 2021 collection, last December at Art Basel in Miami Beach. He only had to walk from the vacant warehouse where Dior Men held their pre-fall 2020 show at the newly opened Rubell Museum in Miami. Allapattah district, where Boafo exhibited as the museum’s 2019 artist in residence. Impressed by the rising art star and her vibrant portraits of people of color, Jones got the idea to collaborate with Boafo for Spring / Summer 2021.

Jones has his own close connection to Africa. He spent his formative years living on the continent; in Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana and Ghana. The artistic director of Dior Men intended to collaborate with an African artist, and the Ghanian Boafo, who lives between Vienna and Accra, was an ideal choice. Jones flew to Boafo’s studio in Accra and discovered a painting – which debuted in the Spring / Summer 2020 issue of Document – of a black man in an ivy shirt. He immediately made the connection between the ivy print and a dress Christian Dior himself designed in the 1950s that featured an ivy belt and adornment. This portrait became the starting point of the collection, entitled Portrait of an artist.

From there, Jones took the prints worn by the stylish figures featured in Boafo’s work, translating them into crisp shirts that feature the intricate designs depicted in Boafo’s paintings. As the house’s namesake, Boafo also has an affinity for flora, and Jones went one step further, incorporating the house’s couture heritage by recreating the ivy print on a shirt with delicate embroidery and beading. He recreated the berets in Boafo’s portraits, turning them into hats. What is most impressive is the way Jones transformed the texture of finger paint – a method Boafo uses to create skin in his paintings, echoing the same gestural strokes seen in the late paintings. Viennese artist Egon Schiele (died in 1918 of the pandemic of that time, the Spanish flu).

The collection marks a step forward for Dior with the way it showcases Boafo and his subjects, an approach that not only celebrates black identity, but also strengthens Ghana’s reputation as a hotbed of creativity. If only COVID-19 allowed Dior to show Boafo’s work to the fashion industry through a gorgeous ensemble his work deserves.

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