PARIS, France — There is so much to get away from in the world at the moment that it’s no wonder fashion, with its finger in the wind, has taken the escape of travel as its theme for the season. Which places Louis Vuitton, with a multibillion-dollar business built on exactly that foundation, in a good place for Spring 2017. And Kim Jones, a born nomad, was just the designer to make the most of the mood, with a men’s collection that combined the curiosity of the traveller with the eye of the connoisseur and the imagination of the storyteller. It’s a formula he’s used to great effect before at Vuitton, but this was his finest quarter-hour.
Jones has a real knack for co-conspirators, starting with his studio team. He’s worked with artists Dinos and Jake Chapman before, but the grotesque bestiary they created for today’s show, reproduced on everything from silk shirts to latex coats to luggage tags, seemed particularly appropriate, like the kind of drawings ancient mariners made of the wild animals they encountered on their explorations. Somewhere further down the time/space continuum, DJs Mark Moore and Honey Dijon produced a sensational soundtrack that referenced the glory days of London clubbing in the late 1980s.
Jones has always been able to strangle multiple personal associations out of a collection, but the resources offered to him by Vuitton have made his palette that much more broader and more sophisticated. For this collection, he created a surreal, spectacular autobiographical hybrid of tribal Africa, tribal London, and tribal Paris: Masai, punk and Avenue Montaigne, each of them equally defined in their rituals and visual codes. Zips and bondage straps invaded pin-smart tailoring. Animal-ish patterns were duplicated in punk mohair. Masai checks and Johnny Rotten’s tartan have a natural complicity anyway, but LV’s own motifs mutated into zigzags that looked like tribal scarification. The zigzag topstitching on a navy twill suit had the same effect.
The savannah insinuated itself in ways great (the palette of earth, sand and sun-dried; the accessories covered in ethically sourced animal hides) and small (lizard coat-buckles, the Masai beading on shoe’s upper). The footwear was safari sandals or brothel creepers. Jones has done a great job of subverting Vuitton’s haute bourgeois style while celebrating it. So the most expensive item in the collection — a trench in natural crocodile — was defused with a dog collar. Another trench, printed with the Monogram, was cut from punky latex. Siouxsie Sioux wore her rubber coats with nothing underneath. Jones allowed his models trousers. Still, the element of unpredictability keeps Vuitton’s menswear on its toes — and getting better all the time.