Dior Men’s Spring 2025: Artist Hylton Nel Is the Cat’s Meow

Kim Jones’ spring menswear show for Dior had all the makings of another fashion blockbuster: a spectacular set filled with original art works, and a front row stacked with celebrities including Bad Bunny, Robert Pattinson and members of the K-pop band Tomorrow x Together.

With the Olympics just around the corner, Jones could have leveraged the event to make a statement about sportswear. After all, he has one of the world’s biggest fashion archives, including hundreds of sneakers.

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Instead, he chose to focus on a more personal obsession: the work of South African master potter Hylton Nel. Jones has been buying Nel’s work for years, and his collection numbers in the hundreds. “In my country house, I have shelves and shelves and shelves of it,” he said in a preview.

The two men have a lot in common. The 83-year-old artist’s home on the outskirts of Calitzdorp, a small town in the remote Klein Karoo region of South Africa, is filled with a cornucopia of objects, captured by photographer Pieter Hugo in a booklet distributed to guests at the show.

“I love how he lives,” enthused Jones, who made the six-hour journey by car from Cape Town. He’s particularly fond of Nel’s sculptures of cats, which were blown up to gigantic proportions on the runway.

One was a hybrid creature with the head of a feline and the body of a female human that recalled the deities of Ancient Egypt. The model who opened the show cradled the original work in one hand.

References to artist Nel’s creations were woven through the collection, from the naïve bird motifs rendered in silver studs on a high-collared black suit to the playful patterns and slogans on knitwear, and a blue-and white jacket covered in floral embroidery. Designed to reproduce the surface of earthenware, it required almost 2,000 hours of work.

Some models wore ceramic sculptures shaped like scarves around their necks. Others sported cloche hats designed by Stephen Jones and hand crocheted by craftspeople working with South African brand Earth Age, who also made the cute cat pendants that dangled off miniature versions of Dior’s signature Saddle bag.

“It’s very delightful and wonderful to see what he has done,” Nel said backstage before the show. “My work is my work, and he has taken it and made another work, so I think that’s very exciting.”

If the scope of the artist’s heavily autobiographical oeuvre is intimate, Jones — who grew up in Africa — also wanted to convey a sense of landscape with the presentation, set against a digital screen to a live recording of Kate Bush. Explorer jackets, extra-wide shorts and clog-inspired shoes were all suited to hiking in the veldt.

Even his couture references had an outdoorsy feel. Draped pants and an asymmetrical cape coat were inspired by a 1952 women’s design by founder Christian Dior.

The craft-intensive lineup reflected Jones’ passion for collecting objects with a history. While some designers aim to strike a pop cultural nerve, Jones balances his natural sense of showmanship and powerful celebrity connections with a perpetual thirst for discovery that makes his work particularly appealing to fellow collectors and connoisseurs.

“This is my 60th collection for Dior in six years,” he noted. “People get bored, so keeping the customer excited is the most important thing.”

If the scale of the Dior show is about to propel Nel onto a much bigger stage, the artist remained sanguine.

“At my age, I don’t hope for anything, I enjoy whatever comes along,” he said with a laugh. He celebrated his moment in the spotlight with a gift to himself: a turquoise ring by London-based jeweler Ram. It was the perfect match for his cornflower blue eyes, and another reminder that the devil is in the details.

For more Paris men’s spring 2025 reviews, click here.

Launch Gallery: Dior Men Spring 2025 Men's Collection

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