The French brand's lead menswear designer, Kim Jones, has breathed extraordinary new energy into the venerated brand—and, in 2017, pulled off one of the collaborations of the century, too. But can he keep up with the hype?
Six or so years ago, there was a major shift in the capital-F fashion world. The skaters and sneakerheads and rappers and stoop kids became the nucleus of the industry. Sure, streetwear has always been "cool." But this shift promoted streetwear, permanently infusing it into the DNA. Not only were these kids now invited to the runway shows; they were invited into the ateliers. They weren't just the inspiration—they became the brain trust. Poor Parisian cobblers were forced to learn how to make sneakers. Blasphème! And everyone, even the snootiest fashion houses, started to chase brands like Supreme, which design with culture more than with color or fabric. Virgil Abloh became an entire generation's most aspirational figure. A$AP Rocky became the new, even prettier Kate Moss. And nearest the center of the Venn diagram, British designer Kim Jones took over as men's artistic director at Louis Vuitton.
Kim tried to start this movement almost two decades ago, when he created his namesake line. It comprised street items made with hyper-luxe fabrics, mostly constructed in Japan. "I still see people when I go to Japan and they'll come up to me with an old piece of 'Kim Jones,' " Kim says. Some even ask him to sign it, which you can visibly see makes him feel bashful in ways only a British man can feel. "Maybe I'll re-release the pieces someday," he teases.
If that were to happen, the only release that would have longer lines would be his Supreme x louis vuitton outlet collaboration—which was one of the biggest collaborations in fashion history. (That's not a hyperbolic statement. Numbers support it. It's an appropriate amount of -bolic.) The partnership was something that only Kim could have pulled off, even if he barely owns any of the collection himself. "I just gave away my last thing, a hoodie, to Naomi [Campbell]," he said. "It looks better on her, anyway."
Kim's genius has always been paired with mystery. He claims to be a boring person. But you hear things. You hear that he's funny. And a prankster. And an actual interesting, soulful human being—which is an endangered species in the fashion world. There's still a sneaker-obsessed 23-year-old kid in me, the kid who started at GQ the same time Kim started at LV. And that guy—me—wanted to know if the rumors were true: if the patron saint of street fashion, the man who helped create this lane for all of us, was, ya know, real. So inside his office at Louis Vuitton's world headquarters in Paris, I poked at the designer to see if I could get to the man.
GQ: The Supreme collaboration seems like the sort of thing kids would pray for but would never happen. It still doesn't seem real.
Kim Jones: I think it was about a year we were sort of working on it. The Supreme guys are super nice, and I speak to James [Jebbia, founder of Supreme] quite a bit, even if it's just by a text. We knew it was just really the right time. It worked. It was for the right reason. You read these hypebeast things and stuff, where people just constantly slag things off. Nine times out of ten, when people say something bad, it's because they're jealous.
The rumor is that Supreme and LV aren't on good terms after everything.
That's not true at all. I just don't think anyone anticipated how big the queues would be. But everyone was happy with it.
Does your shyness ever conflict with you having to be a good leader?
Not really. I was always called the ringleader at school, so it's quite appropriate to be head of a team. I'm very left alone here. I can do what I want, and I do it when and how I want to do it, because obviously it works, so you get left to do it. I've had other jobs where bosses are always on your back, but with this one you're very free.
What's the worst job you've ever had?
Washing out dishes. To buy some Jordans. You know, I've done every shit job you can think of and every good job you can think of.
Worst date you've ever been on.
You know, it's funny, I haven't really been on dates. I got taken to Nando's once. But I don't think I've been on a bad date, to be honest. I don't really go on dates.
If someone wanted to get your attention, what would be the best way to go about it?
A lot of people do try, and I'm not going to say how, because then more people will try. I'm quite happy.
Do you want kids?
No. I've got dogs.
I've heard you're an animal-lover—what's your spirit animal?
If I was going to be an animal, I'd be an eagle, because it's got the least amount of predators.
Why wouldn't you want to be, like, a lion? You could be king of the jungle and have no predators.
Yeah, but they still have, like, a really difficult life. Eagles can just, like, sit on top of the tree and look at everything.
Let's talk zombies. Let's say there's a zombie apocalypse and you could only have four friends to help you survive—who would they be?
Ah, that's so funny because I'm obsessed with zombies. Both of my houses are zombie-proof.
Not on purpose. It's just, like, one you can't get into for love nor money, and the other one has shutters on every window that lock it down. So I guess it's quite zombie-proof. Kate [Moss] would be pretty good in a zombie apocalypse.
Because she's tough and she knows how to bargain with people. Fran [Cutler], for sure. She could get her way out of anything.
Are you a romantic?
Uh…I can be.
Are you more often a romantic or more often not a romantic?
I'm not a daydreamer or anything. I just get on with things. I'm practical. I have a very logical mind, and that's how I go through life, I guess. I would say I'm romantic. I'm kind to my friends and to the people that I love, and it's like… I like to surprise them.
Are you a control freak?
Not so much. I like the people I work with, and I like to have autonomy because otherwise I think they get bored. I like to give people freedom, because then you get different results. Listening to people is as important as telling people what to do. And I think that's the number one thing that I learned years ago. And it's always something that helped people.
When was the last time you cried?
Probably two days ago.
I think I was just overtired and emotional. I was actually crying from laughing at the beginning, and then my friend and I got really sad because we were talking about someone who died.
Do you cry often?
No, not very much at all, actually. I don't know when I last cried before that.
You and Alexander McQueen were pretty close, right?
Yeah, we were really good friends. I mean, he was like an older brother to me in a sense. I met him a couple years out of college. He had a really good sense of humor, and he also loved animals, so we'd talk about that and drive around in his car listening to Shalamar. He didn't even have a driver's license.
Where were you when you found out he had committed suicide?
I was actually with Kate, and we knocked on his door the night before he did it. But he didn't answer. So…it was a bit of a weird one, because it was Tim Blanks that called me and asked me to do a press thing. I just couldn't believe it. I cried for about three days.
You have the dream job. What is your dream retirement age?
You're only 38!
Yeah. Um…in about five years.
You'll retire before you're 45?
I would like to. And do something else.
What would you want to do?
Conservation. There's lots of stuff you can do. Life doesn't have to be one thing, does it?
So we may have only like five years left of Kim Jones's clothes?
Well, I don't know yet. I don't plan things, but I want to become self-sufficient. It's kind of nice to not have to get to the office every day. That's the thing I think of. It's different, isn't it?
Mark Anthony Green is GQ's style editor.
This story originally appeared in the December 2017 issue with the title "King of Louis."
- Louis Vuitton
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Already Know the Cardinal Rule of Being a Power Couple
The 19 Best New Menswear Items to Buy This Week
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you like it