Kim Jones, the designer who ferried NYC-based skate brand Supreme from street cult prevalence to high fashion prominence, is leaving his post at Louis Vuitton. The departure was announced in the wake of several other luxury brand exits in the past six weeks including Phoebe Philo from Céline and Jonathan Saunders from Diane Von Furstenberg.
“It has been a huge privilege to work with Kim,” Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, said in a brief statement on Tuesday. “His ability to set trends is impeccable and his talent and determination have ensured that Louis Vuitton is firmly placed as the leading brand in luxury menswear today. All of us who have been fortunate to work with Kim wish him continued success in his next venture.”
Jones first caught the eye of the rag trade after designer John Galliano bought his Central Saint Martins graduate collection. He later launched his namesake label in 2003, followed by a successful but brief stint at Richemont-owned brand Dunhill.
In 2011, he joined Louis Vuitton. During his seven-year tenure as first the Style Director at the brand’s menswear division and subsequently, Artistic Director, the designer twisted convention with an onslaught of travel-inspired collections. While closely following the legacy of his predecessor Marc Jacob, Jones beamed the brand into the millennial consciousness. He is credited with making the French label consistently deliver bangers—a successful partnership with British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, for example—and unswervingly high profits.
But perhaps his most winning accomplishment of them all was pulling the brand from a monotonous luxury lull to modern sophistication, all the while remaining true to its ‘Art of Travel’ roots. As the designer gears up for his final collection for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week, we look at his most iconic moments at the label.
Perhaps most memorable for the snaking queues outside of every Supreme store upon its launch, Jones set fire to the internet with his Fall/Winter 2017 show. The designer introduced sneakers, duffels, bandanas, backpacks, and even skateboards in an exclusive collaboration with New York-based Supreme. It upended the industry’s trickle down effect, taking the ubiquity of a streetwear label and elevating it into covetable luxury items. The collection retained its convincingly young and underground-inspired tone throughout its lineup of leather herringbone marquetry jacket, drop-crouched trousers, and floppy shirts.
Hawaiian shirts and an exclusive partnership with Drake on the song “Signs” was what gave this collection the island-hopper feel that Jones so carefully tried to project all over his social media before the show. With a soundtrack tailored for the collection’s new squad of young admirers, the tropical prints on suits and pants perfectly complemented the more sophisticated offerings such as bonded leather, neoprene jackets and grey nylon ponchos.
This iconic collection will always be remembered as the designer’s debut at Louis Vuitton. Scored by Talking Heads’s “I Zimbra,” the show paid homage to the matchless legacy left behind by the brand’s previous artistic director, Marc Jacobs. Jones, who grew up in Kenya, kept East Africa at the heart of this show with some inimitable pieces such as gold and navy tops in shimmering raffia, varsity jackets in crocodile leather, and others featuring wild alligator skin.
Instead of translating a single travel experience into a collection, Jones translated three. A homecoming of sorts, his S/S 2017 show combined three monumental phases of his life: Africa, where he grew up, London, where he studied and Paris, where he now works. Masai-inspired checks channeled his childhood; a pinky-tan bomber jacket explored his fascination with punk, while snazzy trench coats commemorated his once iconic collaboration with British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman.
An ode to his wandering temperament, the Fall/Winter 2013 show explored his wild mountain climbing adventures across the snow-capped Himalayan ranges of Nepal and Bhutan. The winter lineup opened with puffer jackets laden with snow-leopard prints, and pinstripe suits with colorful riffs all the while keeping with the brand’s luxury travel heritage. Save for the forests of Bhutan, Jones’s runway was perhaps the only other place where tigers and snow leopards crossed paths with a classic double-breasted coat.
Jones revisited his trip to the royal palaces and maharajas of Jodhpur and Jaipur with his Fall/Winter 2015 lineup. Apparently, it was the late Louise Wilson, his Central Saint Martins professor, who first pushed him to travel to India. In a heartfelt attempt to pay tribute to Wilson [she died in May 2014], he designed the collection to reflect her recommendations. The result was a striking show with extravagant military jackets that featured traditional shisha mirror-work, army shirts, and suede shorts with imperial details.
AMERICA CUP CAPSULE COLLECTION (2017)
In true nautical fashion, the designer crafted an exclusive capsule collection as a salute to the world’s most glamorous yacht race. Apollo backpacks, semaphore sweatshirts, and “latitude” stoles were all reminiscent of what a Jonesian holiday possibly looks like. “The America’s Cup, the holy grail of yachting, sees challengers racing across the oceans becoming a lifelong quest,” Vuitton CEO Michael Burke said. “The freedom, the courage, the skill and the competence that it requires reflect the true spirit of Louis Vuitton.”
The designer truly mapped the most exotic parts of the globe in his Fall/Winter 2014 pieces. The collection followed his South American odyssey across the Spanish colonial architectural remains of Cuzco, the desert plateaus of Atacama, and the mountains of Machu Picchu. The colors of the beautiful landscapes and ancient craft of the native populations came alive in double-faced cashmere coats, long scarves woven from wool and alpaca, and limited made-to-order vicuña coats.
Jackets cut from indigo-dyed Kobe leather, satin souvenir jackets with the embroidered cranes, red silk Hawaiian shirts with the embroidered monkeys—the Spring/Summer 2016 runway was a modern explorer’s paradise. Jones made sure the show was no less than a buffet of colors and an amalgamation of the varied cultures of Japan, Indonesia, and China. Nile Rodgers played DJ to this parade of flamboyant and shiny outfits, in what arguably was one of the brand’s most memorable and fun collections.
“Paris, past and present,” Jones told WWD, reflecting on the show inspired by the French capital in the wake of terrorist attacks across Europe. The designer featured classic European styles such as billowy silk trench coats, berets, and a pile of Louis Vuitton trunks—which marked the “past” or the “old” he initially referred to. Committed to his youthful legacy, then came the new: suits in Damier checks, blousons inside out, and workman jackets with a laid-back texture. Without putting too much of an emphasis on it, Jones continued the once unimaginable marriage of utility with extravagance.