Cover Kim Jones (Photo: Jackie Nickerson)

Kim Jones serves as artistic director of Dior Men and Fendi womenswear, but he’s not one to rest on his laurels; with a collaborative capsule with Sacai dropping this month and six ready-to-wear collections in the making, he proves to be a tireless fashion force

Kim Jones is constantly zipping around.

He’s just zipped in from holidaying with friends in Kenya—a destination he has frequented since he was a child and loves for its remoteness and abundance of animals—leaving him with freckles floating above a fresh tan. Throughout our conversation at the Dior Men headquarters in Paris, where he has served as artistic director since 2018, the British fashion designer zips from thoughts about Baby Yoda to ideas about elephants. Tomorrow he zips to Milan to work on his second womenswear show with Fendi, where he has also served as artistic director since September 2020—and a surprise, now-viral crossover with Versace—before zipping to the Dolomites for his birthday weekend. One gets the sense that Jones is not someone used to standing still.

“I had this conversation during my holiday for about four hours about how this tiny, creative part of my brain has made my entire life and now affected so many people around me,” he says. He’s leant back behind his desk in a small, unassuming office, with books strewn about and unopened gifts around his ankles. “But I try not to think about it too much because that would drive me mental. I just get on with it.”

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That part of Jones’s brain has been responsible for making him one of the most in-demand designers of the last decade, beginning with his tenure as artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton from 2011 to 2018, where he launched that explosive Supreme collaboration, and cemented himself as one of the first designers to be able to effortlessly straddle luxury and streetwear.

Since taking the reins at Dior Men, Jones has continued to challenge menswear norms, repurposing the women’s Saddle bag into menswear and mining Dior’s couture codes for modern tailoring, saying, “When I first joined, I was most excited about the archive and atelier at Dior”. But he was also thrilled by the eponymous founder’s first career, adding, “Christian Dior was an art dealer, so it was a logical thing to bring more artistic collaborations into the role”, a fact that has led him to feature a collaboration with a new artist in almost every collection, from figurative painter Peter Doig to Kenny Sharf, who splattered Dior’s leather goods with psychedelic cartoons.

Every season Jones tries to get into the mind of the brand’s founder; one of the first connections he felt with Dior’s legacy was their mutual adoration for Japan. Pre- pandemic, Jones would visit the country 12 times a year on average, soaking up the way people cross-pollinated western luxury with their own traditions on the streets of Harajuku. “It’s like going to the future every time I go there,” says Jones, who showed his second collection for Dior Men in Tokyo, alongside a collaboration featuring Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama’s robots. He also has many friends in the country, including legendary streetwear designer Hiroshi; Ambush founder Yoon Ahn, whom Jones appointed as jewellery designer for Dior Men; and Chitose Abe of Sacai fame, with whom he is launching his latest capsule this month.

“Chitose and I have been talking about doing something since the early days of Vuitton, but recently I’ve missed Japan so much as I haven’t been in two years, so this capsule is almost like bringing Japan and my friends to me,” he says. The monochromatic, 14-piece collection is a distillation of both labels, with distinctive Sacai elements such as nylon panels applied to classic Dior Men shapes of a crisp jacket or the Saddle bag. During lockdown, Jones says he and Abe passed ideas back and forth, altering and editing with each handover, like a conversation via sketches. “It was challenging because we were doing stuff over Zoom; I hate Zoom. You can maybe look at accessories but you can’t look at clothes over Zoom,” he says.

See more: Dior Men’s And Sacai Are Teaming Up For S/S 2022

“I’ve missed Japan so much as I haven’t been in two years, so this capsule is almost like bringing Japan and my friends to me”
Kim Jones

Jones continues to lament how much time everyone spent on their devices during lockdown, “probably more than was healthy because it was our only window to the world”, he says. He admits to having a short attention span, as he toys with the sticker of a permanent marker while speaking to me. During periods of confinement, however, Jones rediscovered the joys of the impressive library of his countryside home in Sussex. “I collect important first editions of classic literature, so I thought that it’d be great for us to go back to appreciating the written page.” It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that Jones’s first couture collection for Fendi was themed after the famed British literary Bloomsbury Group, which counted Virginia Woolf as a member. He hints that his literary obsession might resurface in upcoming collections.

Jones is part of a Bloomsbury Group of sorts, but for 21st-century fashion, constantly conscripting his famous friends to put their spin on modern luxury. “I wanted the house to be more international when I got here,” he says. “I’m British, Dior is French, Yoon [Ahn] is in Japan, Matthew [Williams, creative director of Givenchy, who was invited to design Dior Men accessories for the spring 2019 collection] lives in LA—that’s what the world is like now. I think Christian Dior was always forward thinking and very groundbreaking; he would set up stores in Havana, for example, or do something that was unexpected at the time, so it’s nice to play around with the rules a little bit.”

In that spirit, Jones was inspired by another place personal to Dior—Texas, which was the designer’s favourite US state (owing at least partly to the legendary Dallas retailer Stanley Marcus, who introduced Dior’s collections at Neiman Marcus)—for his spring 2022 collection. Showcased in June, and officially in stores next year, the collection was a partnership with American rapper and Texas native Travis Scott, and features looks in pink and green, dotted with cacti and boot studs (the double-sided Saddle bag was a crowd favourite). “Travis and I were looking at the Jimi Hendrix flared silhouette and working it into Dior’s structured shapes,” he says. It was a bold choice to put out a plethora of slick suiting when most of the world was still housebound. “It’s like a reaction to an action, I think,” he says. “I spent four months in my pyjamas at home unpacking every drawer in my house, so I wanted to go outside and get dressed up again.”

One of Jones’s greatest talents is his knack for reading the zeitgeist, creating collectible items that people not just aspire to own, but desperately want to wear now. “I’m always aware that we live in a bubble and only see a small percentage of what men are really wearing, so I know I also need to make clothes for real people,”
he says. “I work for a big company and big companies need to sell clothes. That’s my job.” Jones is perhaps one of few creative professionals who doesn’t groan at the thought of commercialising his designs, instead very much embracing it as part of his responsibility to decipher people’s desires. Before the pandemic, he could be found sniffing around the Dior shop floor, quietly eavesdropping on customers’ feedback.

See more: French Artist Jean-Michel Othoniel on His Breathtaking Collaboration with Dior

There’s no better sign of being on the right track, though, than a sell-out shoe. Last year Jones orchestrated another smash hit when he dropped 13,000 pairs of the limited-edition Air Jordan 1 High OG Dior sneakers that sold out in seconds. At the time of writing, a pair on the resale market costs US$8,000. “I knew the Air Jordans would be a massive hit,” he says. “But I also knew that there would be people who’d not like it, like critics who’d say that I’m selling out; but actually I was working with my favourite shoe ever, so it was a really personal thing for me.” What’s cool in the moment is often cyclical, Jones tells me. “Things that are iconic stay iconic, I guess. We all love things from our childhood and if it’s good, our next generation will like it too, like Baby Yoda,” he says, referring to the emergence of everyone’s favourite tiny green alien from the Star Wars franchise in The Mandalorian television series. “Sometimes it’s relevant again because it’s the right time.”

The shoe was officially launched via pop-ups in London and Chengdu, China, the latter choice reflective of its consumer power even during the height of the pandemic. “It’s got a healthy appetite, hasn’t it?” Jones asks rhetorically of the country. When asked what he thought of the country on his last visit more than two years ago, though, his focus is unexpectedly unrelated to fashion or capitalism. “I liked how in China people take things like pollution into their own hands, like making apps where people can complain if a factory is giving off too much carbon dioxide, or like that really cute story about the herd of 15 elephants wandering 300 miles [480km] away from their nature reserve and people rallying around to protect them,” he says.

“I’ve seen such beautiful things. I just want to make sure they’re around for the next generation”
Kim Jones

If this sounds oddly specific, it might help to know that Jones is passionate about conservation and sponsors a range of endangered species around the world including the pangolin. “If I wasn’t in fashion, I’d be in conservation, I think,” he says. In fact, since joining Dior, Jones has been working closely with the brand in furthering its use of sustainable fabrications and will unveil the projects in due time. “I don’t talk about it much because it’s something I’m saving for myself, but I grew up all around the world and I’ve seen such beautiful things,” he adds. His father’s occupation as a hydrogeologist meant his childhood was spent travelling to places like Ecuador, the Caribbean and African countries. “I just want to make sure they’re around for the next generation. They deserve to be on the planet, that’s all.”

And what of the imprint he wants to leave at Dior? “I hope my legacy to be that [my designs] are relevant for their age and give something to the archive that carries on past my time,” he says. Jones is being beckoned to his next appointment, supposedly to visit a gallery space. Before zipping out of the door, he adds one final thought: “When I work for these houses,” he says, “I like that I’m adding to their history.”

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