LONDON, United Kingdom — The British Fashion Council’s new Trailblazer Award recognises innovation and creativity — “the very best,” reads the BFC blurb — but it’s temperament as much as talent that makes its first recipient so ideally suited for the honour.
Yes, Kim Jones has blazed a design trail through the world of men’s fashion. He’s also sailed, flown and trekked to the most remote corners of the globe to satisfy his spirit of adventure. That’s the legacy of growing up all over South America and East Africa, and it continues to illuminate every facet of his life.
“I love going to places I haven’t been before,” Jones declares over the phone from a lodge in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. “I want to see the whole world before I die.”
One place Jones had yet to visit at the beginning of 2018 was the ateliers of Christian Dior. In March, he was appointed artistic director of the newly retitled Dior Men, formerly Dior Homme. And since then, he’s wasted no time in weaving the various threads of his life — professional and personal — into an impressive whole.
At the end of November, Dior launched its pre-fall collection for men with a laser-wreathed extravaganza in Tokyo, Jones’ favourite place after London and the city that embraced him from the very beginning of his career. The presentation marked two firsts: the first menswear pre-collection for Dior, and the first catwalk show for any men’s pre-collection. Its scale was a measure of the confidence Dior chief executive Pietro Beccari and LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault have in Jones to realise his ambitions for the brand.
“It’s important to think grand,” the designer says. “With the elegance and heritage of the house, Dior deserves to be Number One. And for me, making it feel grand and big is important because there’s so much competition.”
His appetite for beautiful objects — his instinct for luxury — makes a striking counterpoint to his endless itchy-footed peregrinations around the world. Collector on the one hand, nomad on the other. In his six years at Louis Vuitton, Jones was able to create a seductive symbiosis between the two impulses.
“I’m continuing to do that at Dior. When I do my research, it’s obsessive, even slightly sick. There are amazing things in the archive, and I’m making those things fantastical for now, with the finest materials, the best technicians, the best manufacturers.” But as much as Jones is thrilled by gossamer laces, feather-light skins and gilded jacquards, you get the feeling he’s just as engaged by the opportunity to turn the most ordinary objects — a key-ring or a belt-buckle — into something refined and precious.
That kind of alchemy may well be his design signature. Jones pioneered the fusion of high and low, formal and sport which transformed menswear in the 21st century. “I don’t know about that,” he counters. “I just did something people could relate to. I’ve always done what I like to do. I’m good at taking a spin on what something is and making it personal.”
If he’s humble about his success, he’s also generous with it. Jones loves a good collaboration. In Tokyo, for instance, the towering fembot centrepiece was by cult artist Hajime Sorayama, the soundtrack was by Diplo. Jones worked with American artist KAWS on the set of his first Dior collection. The Dior men’s jewellery collection is designed by old friend Yoon Ahn of the Japanese brand Ambush.
“It’s very like a family at Dior, very different from Vuitton,” Jones says. “My team are the people I spend the most time with, they should be proud of what we do too. It’s how I’ve been taught by the Marc Jacobses and Michael Kopelmans of this world.”
And that may eventually be the most enduring trail he has blazed. When he was starting out, Jones was lucky enough to be close to Lee McQueen. It’s something Jones thinks about when he meets young designers now.
“I’m always talking with them,” he says, “trying to help them think in different ways, opening their eyes to opportunity. I took risks when I started out, like going to show in Paris, which was expensive, but I was always thinking big. You have to go with your gut and do it.”
Call that legacy, if you like. Dior might be all the proof you need.