Ivy, that pervasive, unrelenting evergreen, is a fitting motif for Amoako Boafo’s journey to partnership with Dior.
Kim Jones is arguably the most important menswear designer today. At the top of his game, he brought Louis Vuitton into a new era (that way paved in part by Mr. Marc Jacob, of course), then vacated the position, which he left in the brilliant hands of hypemaster general, Virgil Abloh, and took the reins from Kris Van Assche at Dior Homme (which he promptly rebranded ‘Dior Men’). Eleven collections later, and ground has been broken with each and every one. His keen eye for collaborations has been a key tenet in revolutionizing the brand, teaming up with such disparate artists as street-centric Brian Donnelly (otherwise known as KAWS), skate-centric Shawn Stussy, Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama (best known for his series of paintings featuring a female robot form), American artist Raymond Pettibon (who achieved fame for his album covers for punk bands in the 1970s), and multidisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham, who combines art with other artistic disciplines such as architecture and performance. Kim’s proposal for upcoming Fall 2021, which recently walked, was an exquisite synthesis of Haute Couture techniques in embroideries and embellishments, with custom artwork by the renowned figurative painter Peter Doig, who Kim’s been obsessed with since he was a teen. But all that’s yet to come. This spring, the collection is all short shorts and silk shirts, or sheer vests adorned with the ‘Dior’ archive pattern he revived in his first collection for the House (Spring 2019) stitched in shaggy cream or pink needlepoint, teamed with sandals and striped cummerbunds, of course. The standout silk shirts are white with a woven green ivy, almost iridescent. That shirt was a reference to 36-year-old Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo’s painting of a boy in a similar ivy-print shirt and beret. Kim had wanted to collaborate with Amoako on the collection after meeting him in Miami in 2019. It was seeing this painting with the ivy shirt – which was a symbol used by Christian Dior, and the beret, that was notable in his Pre-Fall 2020 collection – that cemented the collaboration. We caught up with Amoako to talk partnership, process, and the protests that changed the world.
Q: I understand when you and Kim were introduced, you were mutual fans. What has been your relationship to fashion in the past?
A: I really love Kim’s work and Kim was impressed by my paintings. He discovered them in December 2019 when he did his Fall 2020 show in Miami. The conversation started there, right after the Rubell Museum opening where I was introduced to Kim by Mera and Don Rubell. As a fashion lover, I get drawn by the characters that I paint when they have a sense of fashion. I get connected. I think that fashion is a vehicle for art, and art can be a vehicle of empowerment for individuals. This has been a momentous creative opportunity for my career and for the future of my art.
Q: Have you ever designed clothes, or had an interest in designing clothes?
A: The collaboration with Dior is my very first collaboration with a couture House but I have been always attracted by fashion, by the way how people dress, and this is clearly visible in my paintings… the use of colors, the patterns, the graphics.
Q: What were your thoughts when Kim suggested a collaboration?
A: I was thrilled, of course. And surprised. It was difficult for me to process all that was happening, and how quickly the collaboration started and clicked.
Q: I understand the collaboration was much more than Kim/Dior simply transposing paintings onto items of clothing. What was the extent of the collaboration?
A: My collaboration with Kim exceeded all possibilities, and we were able to create something amazing together, even from afar. We had a really open discussion with Kim Jones during the process on how to best represent my world, as well as the works themselves. He really wanted to respect me and my art. Sometimes Kim was just inspired by the characters in my paintings to elaborate a look and sometimes we just find a way to incorporate my paintings into clothes which is just something amazing !
Q: What was working with Kim and the House of Dior like? How was the designing process?
A: My experience collaborating on the Dior Men’s Summer 2021 show has been mind-blowing. We worked together on how to utilize fashion as a vehicle for art, and vice versa, and how the fusion of these creative worlds will empower individuals.
Q: Are there pieces that you’re particularly proud of?
A: I really love the whole collection but I’m of course very proud of all the pieces on which my art is included. It’s a wonderful way to show that art and fashion are connected.
Q: I imagine you learned a great deal from Kim and also Kim from you. Was there anything that really surprised you?
A: When Kim Jones came to Accra with his team and with my dealer, Mariane Ibrahim, he was instantly drawn to my work, Green Beret. That visit was wonderful as we had many incredible conversations about the collection, about Kim’s vision, and my own.
Q: What was the most valuable thing you learned from the process?
A: Kim and I are more similar than I expected, in our creative ventures, in our crafts; we convey genuine messages about being, just through different media. It became even more clear to me how fashion and art influence one another.
Q: I understand your collaboration resulted in the establishment of a foundation. Can you tell me about that?
A: I plan to open, thanks also to the support of Dior, a residency in Accra in 2021, which I am very excited about. My intention with the residency is to form part of a growing network of organizations and spaces concentrating on supporting the local art scene.
Q: I know your collaboration with Kim/Dior was initiated before the protests in America rocked the world. How did those events impact your thoughts on the collaboration?
A: Since the beginning, my practice has emphasized themes of Black perseverance and strength. When I met Kim Jones, and we later began to collaborate on the collection for Dior, it was always clear that due to his occupation he easily recognized the ways in which the patterns, textures, and colors I deploy in my work communicate a bold sense of emotion and individualism that help my subjects stand fiercely within the white space of the gallery. I believe the translation to the Dior line was seamless and fluid.
Q: Do you plan to do any more fashion in the near future?
A: I really enjoyed the conversation that has formed during my collaboration with Dior. I am definitely open to more fashion collaborations, moving forward. Nothing has been scheduled at this time.
Q: What are your hopes for the future?
A: I will be focused on the opening of the residency for this year. It’s my priority right now.
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