When British designer Kim Jones took over from Paul Helbers as Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director in 2011, it was considered a bold move. Known for his innovative sports- and streetwear and with a successful line of Umbro capsule collections under his belt, the head-turning Kim Jones partnership turned out to be most fortuitous for LVMH. The brand saw its menswear division become a staple of its own, culminating in a global red leather frenzy during AW17. Rumours are already pegging Jones to take over at Burberry, which would appear to be a most organic homecoming but instead of rushing ahead at what’s next – as fashion is wont to do – let’s give a dramatic fashion week over-the-shoulder look at a few moments where KJ & LV shined brightest.
The Beginning: SS12
With his 2002 CSM graduate collection, mentored by the iconic Louise Wilson, being entirely bought up by John Galliano, it was clear that those in the know recognised the young Londoner’s real-world vision and prescient knack for what was later to become the omnipresent trend of luxury streetwear. It may have all started when he worked as a student at Michael Kopelman’s cult streetwear shop “Gimme 5”. Kim Jones has had a hand in transforming or heating up many a brand, from Dunhill to UNIQLO, Topman, McQ and Iceberg and also had his own namesake brand which shuttered in 2008. All of this formed the auspicious past that led to his SS12 debut for Vuitton, one Tim Blanks dubbed “a relationship of remarkable, intimate compatibility” at the time, because of its travel-infused modernity inspired by a childhood spent in East Africa and the Caribbean. The Masai Damier shawls and tops were an instant stand-out.
The Friendship Mentorships
Kim Jones has always been a mentor, first as a major player in Kanye West’s fashion identity - having worked on Kanye’s unreleased Pastelle line. Jones told Interview: “I wouldn’t say I have a muse, but I would say the person who is that person to me is probably Kanye. He’s someone that I do really believe in, someone who stuck to their guns and did what they believed in, which I admire. I love him dearly.” Their time working on Pastelle also sparked a lasting bond between him and Virgil Abloh – who notably crashed on Jones’s Maida Vale couch at the time and asked for lessons. Calling him the “precursor to modern streetwear” during his OFF-CAMPUS Nike 2017 event, Virgil Abloh deems the Kim Jones Umbro collections to be of the greatest influence on the genesis of OFF-WHITE. During his time at Louis Vuitton, Jones ushered in Yoon Ahn of Tokyo cult label AMBUSH right out the gate.
For his first LV 2012 collection, AMBUSH’s Verbal and Yoon worked on a limited edition music player called the 'PlayButton'. “He’s such a child in how he’s curious about so many things. That energy rubs off. Also, his humility – he hasn’t changed since day one”, Yoon told 10Magazine in 2017.
Obviously a strong believer in the power of a good collab, Kim Jones has brought some other unexpected partners into the LVMH umbrella, enriching his legacy of modern luxury. Supreme made the most headlines of course, but partnerships with artists such as the Chapman Brothers, NikeLab, Kapital and fragment were all responsible for the overdue mentality shift older “maisons” needed to embrace new influences.
Unlike his LV womenswear counterpart during most of his tenure, Marc Jacobs, Kim Jones did not have that specifying flair for an OTT décor (or most likely the budget either). Which is also good, because it allowed for closer inspection of what was actually being shown. Shining loudest during collaborations, it was the quiet luxury of classic design meshed with youth culture that actually translated into the spike in sales he created.
In a sweet note on his Instagram (where he has never been shy to post LV parodies or funny tributes) Kim Jones thanked everyone who worked alongside him at Vuitton and officially bowed out after 7 impactful years.
Thank you @louisvuitton for 7 wonderful years ! You really have been the best and I am grateful to @themarcjacobs for giving me the opportunity to be here in the first place ! I also want to thank Michael Burke for being so great and believing in me and Delphine Arnault for her support @misslucybeeden for being the best right hand in the world @alistermackie for all your great work with us and to the best studio anyone could ever have @jiskavros @bramstabram @brimoo1 @edwardcrutchley @juaneiscool @eloverda @margotsag @petowiese @wisemanjake @mirjapitkaart @ianjw27 @scott_hastings_ @office2143 @hans_schwarz @alexfoxton @nur_light @tuomasmerikoski @doooublemama @emt_marcot @fabrizioviti @nstumpfl @hodelwood @mathieudesmet and @shelleydurkancasting @honeydijon @peterphilipsmakeup @guidopalau @themelanieward @fileandparade @elliegracecumming @reubenesser @benkschofield @marcsebastianf @charlotte_coupe @sigsig4407sigsig @laurentisrael @jacob_c_jordan @_jenni_p @_la_bernie the one and only @therealsissi75 @bencercio @dianedewatrigant @fatsukoosawa @jayseelesavus @supremenewyork @fujiwarahiroshi @jakechapmaniac @jakeanddinos @christophernemeth_official @gordon_flores ❤️ @nelleehooper and anyone I missed off sorry but thank you
Kim Jones will debut his last collection for Louis Vuitton during Paris Fashion Week AW18 on Thursday January 18 (at 2:30 PM local).