Kim Jones has been moving the needle forward in menswear since he launched his namesake label in 2003. Stints at Dunhill and Louis Vuitton followed. Since becoming the creative lead of Dior Men, the scale of Jones’s influence has increased exponentially. Vogue’s international editor at large, Hamish Bowles—who sat in conversation with the British designer at Forces of Fashion today—notes that Jones’s work is distinguished by the way the designer brings his couture hand to menswear. More of that should be revealed at the upcoming fall 2020 collection Jones is working on. “I can’t tell you where [it will] be,” he teased, “but you’ll be excited about it.”
There’s guaranteed to be an archival element to that upcoming work—whether it’s visible or not. Jones, who described himself as a “magpie,” is an excellent researcher who makes use of Dior’s vast archive, where he looks for points of commonality between Monsieur Dior and himself.
Here, the designer talks about starting out, gender in fashion, and that have-to-have Dior saddle bag.
On falling in love with fashion:
“I had quite a nomadic childhood all over the world, which I’m very grateful for because I’ve seen so many amazing things. When I came back to London and America, my sister [had all these copies] of The Face and i-D. I just saw these magazines and I said, ‘I want to be part of this world, it’s amazing!’ I just knew I was creative and didn’t want to do zoology anymore, and that was it. I went out to clubs saw people dressed up.
I started doing a graphic design degree and I didn’t like it, it was a bit boring. I went to see Louise Wilson [former head of the fashion department at Central Saint Martins], who was a dear friend of mine until she died, and I took a portfolio and she was just like, ‘Why do you want to do this? You don’t need to do this, you can go out and do it on your own.’ And I said, ‘Well, I want some time to do it.’ She gave me a place on the MA. Because I paid for it myself, I worked really hard. I had a part-time job, so I went into college and did as much as possible and just had my head down. I think she admired my work ethic and she liked my research skills. I’m a bit of a magpie; I like lots of different things, and I’d bring stuff in and she’d be like, ‘Where did you get that?’ or ‘How do you know about that?’
When I left college I did an exhibition at the Pineal Eye, and John Galliano bought quite a bit of my collection, and then I met Lee McQueen, who was really encouraging always and like a bit of an older brother to me.”
On finding inspiration:
“I look all over. I just look at everything; I’m interested in everything—seeing different places, different people—and having my eyes open, it could be a book, a person, a conversation, listening to people.... In my spare time, I do lots of conservation work, so I go to places that are very remote and see amazing things. You get a lot of creative ideas having time on your own and being out of the environment of working.”
“I always wanted to be an artistic director at a luxury house because I loved the idea of making really beautiful pieces and having really great craftsmanship. The thing that I love about working within houses is that you have the pillars of what the house is and the things you can work with. And the teams—you have the best people in the world to create the most beautiful things [and] for me it’s really a joy.”
On Louis Vuitton:
“Marc Jacobs hired me to do mens there. It was really my dream job and I was like a super, super kid in a candy shop, [with all the] really crazy things you could do. [For my final show at Vuitton], we designed the set to be circular. I’m actually quite shy and I hate doing that last walk of the runway, and then Kate [Moss] said, ‘I’ll do it with you,’ and Naomi [Campbell] said, ‘I’ll do it with you.’ I was actually looking at what Marc Jacobs did when he started [at Louis Vuitton] and he did all these monogrammed trenches; I thought it was a nice [nod] to him because he was the person who gave me my job, so that was like a thank-you, really.”
On gender in fashion:
“I don’t think it’s relevant anymore: Wear what you want to wear. I like seeing people in clothing. One thing I love is seeing is how a stylist might use my clothes in a magazine or how a kid on the street will wear them. “
“I mean, it’s kind of a pinnacle brand for me because it’s a couture house and we have an atelier for mens, which is probably the only one in Paris, I think, for menswear. It was just the history of it, and the fact that it was actually more about ready-to-wear than leather goods than Vuitton. Going into the archive is beyond. I look at Christian Dior as his life, rather than just [as a] brand. I work with artists because, for 15 years, Dior was a gallerist and he worked with Picasso, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, all these people. I thought it was an interesting take on his life because I love art and I collect art. And [there’s] his love of nature, and I love nature; so we found the key things, like the toile de Jouy, which was in the first store that Dior had in Paris. I like working with artists because I like a different perspective. It’s very much what the house is and it’s very much what Christian Dior’s life was about. But also with [the] team, when we start working with the artist we start thinking in a different way, so it’s exciting for us; it’s a way of making things feel fresh and different.
Dior was a house founded after the war, and it was celebratory, and it was important at the time. When I look at the archive and I see what he did in 10 years in the house…I haven’t even looked at the other designers yet because there’s so much to see.”
On redoing the saddle bag:
I chose to redo the saddle bag because John Galliano was the designer when I was in college that everybody looked at. I love what he does at Margiela too, it’s amazing. I was looking at the key things that I related to. When we did the bag, I wanted to do something modern, so I asked Matthew Williams, who does Alyx, to work on the buckle, and then I got Yoon to do the jewelry. Christian Dior had a family around him, and I like the fact that I work with people who I admire and are my friends. It’s a really nice process, and it makes things relevant for now.
Go Behind the Scenes at the 2019 Forces of Fashion Conference
Originally Appeared on Vogue