AS THE CREATIVE VISION BEHIND LOUIS VUITTON’S MENSWEAR COLLECTIONS, KIM JONES IS PROVING HIMSELF ONE OF THE FASHION WORLD’S MOST EXCITING TALENTS.
DDesigners often like to talk about travel. Across the globe or back through time, it’s one of fashion’s great inspirations. But for Kim Jones, the artistic director of men’s ready-to-wear at Louis Vuitton, travel is not simply a source of creativity, but a part of who he is. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, after three years as creative director of Alfred Dunhill. With his unassuming demeanour and charming British accent, he may not seem like the most obvious choice to head up a revered French maison like Louis Vuitton, but truth is Jones couldn’t be a more natural fit. Jones spent his formative years living in Africa, his teens in London, and now resides and works in Paris. As any of his 120,000 Instagram followers know, Jones’ feed is a jet-lag inducing slideshow of bucket list destinations around the world. Paris, Tokyo, Athens, Cape Town, the Kalahari Desert, back to Paris, back to Tokyo, Marrakesh, and on and on. He’s always on the move. Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, was founded as a luggage company in 1854. It went on to become a symbol of the well-heeled jetsetter, with style icons Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of Windsor each amassing legendary collections of the brand’s iconic monogram trunks. Vuitton and Jones were made for each other. “Travel is a huge inspiration,” says Jones of his creative process. “It is part of my life and is the core of the Louis Vuitton DNA. Besides the discovery of techniques, fabrics, crafts that is crucial in my work, travelling is a massive part of the modern life. Airports are filled with men who are flying from one continent to another and have needs for which I am trying to answer to in my designs.” Nowhere was that more obvious than in his most recent collection. Held in June at the Palais Royal in Paris, Jones’ SS17 show was easily one of the most anticipated events on the fashion calendar – and not simply because the front row was graced with the likes of Kate Moss and David Beckham. Models took to the catwalk bearing references from Jones’ own life – exotic skins and animal prints (Africa), bondagebuckle pants (’80s London), and a modern, hand-held spin on the label’s classic trunks. The show was heralded as Jones’ finest. “It is always nice when people and the industry appreciate your work but it has never been my main objective,” he says. “I just want my designs to embrace the nomadic lifestyle men are facing nowadays with constant travelling and hectic schedules. Whatever the situation or the context is, they have to look on point. “It is probably one of the most personal I’ve designed for Louis Vuitton,” adds Jones,
of the 42 looks that walked the runway. “It’s a mix of the fabulous memories I have from Africa when I was a child, my affection of the wild and the animals and my true love for London, my hometown, and the punk scene that influenced me so much while I was a teenager.” Louis Vuitton still makes luggage, of course, but now produces everything from apparel for both men and women, to handbags, accessories, jewellery and timepieces. But it is menswear that has enjoyed the greatest revival of late. Once considered more of a side-business, menswear is booming – global sales outpacing womenswear in recent years, and predicted to exceed $53bn by 2019. At Louis Vuitton, where Jones has now been for five years, 2016 revenue is estimated to reach $13bn. In other words, the British designer is at the helm of one of the biggest sectors in one of the biggest fashion houses on the planet. Still, he doesn’t let that – or the fact his designs are regularly worn by everyone from Zayn Malik and Kanye West, to the good Mr Beckham – cloud his vision. “Of course, I design for men who are living in the real world,” he says. “It is not
about creating a fantasy. The Louis Vuitton customer has high expectations in regards to style, but most of all concerning quality, comfort and functionality. The clothes, leathergoods, shoes and accessories we design need to be beautiful but also very practical to fit modern lifestyles.” In a time when fashion is big business and designers are under more pressure than ever before, Jones has shown he has both the creative vision and commercial savvy to steer the 152-year-old into the future. Whichever direction he chooses to take, it’s clear Louis Vuitton is in safe hands. And we can’t wait to see where he heads next.
Merino wool scarf by Louis Vuitton SS12.
This page: Mink slippers by Chapman Brothers x Louis Vuitton AW13. Opposite: Silk dressing gown, cotton voile and piqué shirt, and silk bow tie, all by Chapman Brothers x Louis Vuitton AW13.
This page: Reversible scarf by Louis Vuitton SS16. Opposite: Satapara pressed flannel coat by Louis Vuitton AW16. GQ.COM.AU 157