“Everyone says the Earth is small, but the world’s very big still. And just the fact that anywhere you go in the world … there’s a nuance that’s different … a way that people wear something is different, and I think that’s really fascinating.”
Kim Jones – the artistic director of men’s ready-to-wear at Louis Vuitton – should know. And it’s not simply because he’s at the forefront of a fashion house that has made its name in travel, with its origins in that very first trunk introduced by Monsieur Vuitton in 1858. In Jones’s personal narrative, exploration runs just as deep. Born in 1979, his father’s work as a hydrologist gave him a childhood spent traversing the globe – with periods in Ecuador, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Botswana, the Caribbean and his native London. In adulthood, Jones has made it his mission to see the rest. The people, the expressions of culture, the landscapes and the fauna. It’s on his mind when we meet at Louis Vuitton’s Sydney maison. Jones is visiting for the opening of a pop-up store to premiere a selection of the brand’s SS 17 Menswear pre-collection, and has already allocated his downtime to getting acquainted with the local wildlife.
In a perfect symphony of the Louis Vuitton spirit and Jones’s own, the call of distant lands is oft heard in his menswear collections for the French luxury house. And having spent his early adulthood in London, Jones has an affinity with this city’s renegade spirit. He’s a collector of early Vivienne Westwood and relics from the club scene, of pieces owned by such provocateurs as Leigh Bowery and Johnny Rotten. Yet he doesn’t court controversy in terms of his own craft. “I think my work is to make people feel good and confident about themselves and for them to have products that are the best made in the world. Luxury is quite an indulgent thing, so having some enjoyment with it is pretty good.”
For Jones, unparalleled quality is the ultimate bottom line. But his artistic collaborations – among them a tribute to designer Christopher Nemeth and collections featuring the work of the often-contentious Jake and Dinos Chapman – add an element of surprise that has also become somewhat of a signature at Louis Vuitton. “I think there’s a certain aspect that Marc Jacobs brought to the company [in] shaking it up, years ago,” says Jones. “And I think [Louis Vuitton chief executive] Michael Burke definitely understands that and we enjoy that … tongue in cheek-ness.
“I need to meet a quokka,” he tells me. “That’s what I want to do. I’ve been obsessed by them for a long time.”
“It’s about a surprise … not doing what’s expected all the time.”
It’s clear Jones holds himself to lofty standards in every element of his practice. And as for his vision of the gentleman traveller who buys his creations, the practical considerations (“he wouldn’t necessarily be someone that wears a suit, because obviously climates aren’t always suitable to that”) are balanced with the bigger picture. “I’d like to think he’s got some sort of social responsibility to the world,” Jones explains. It’s a standpoint that may be attributed in part to Jones’s astute understanding of the world beyond luxury: his egalitarian appreciation of every environment and its ability to teach and inspire. For the opportunity to see so much from the very beginning, he says, “I just feel really privileged.”
“You know, everywhere you go is incredible. Because it’s different. You can go anywhere in the world and see someone, the coolest person, walking down the street. It’s something you can’t buy.”
PHOTOGRAPHY Adrian Price
FASHION Ellen Presbury
MODEL Trè Samuels @ IMG
GROOMING Teneille Sorgiovanni @ Work Agency using M.A.C
PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT Leif Prenzlau