So far, in 2018, fashion’s ever-changing creative director carousel has seen Hedi Slimane move to Céline (replacing the much-adored Phoebe Philo) and Riccardo Tisci replace Christopher Bailey at Burberry. Just yesterday, news broke that Kris Van Assche would be exiting his post at Dior Homme (having previously served under Hedi Slimane at the house), to be replaced by Kim Jones, who announced he was leaving Louis Vuitton back in January. We don’t blame you if you’re confused.
Kim Jones had been heading up Louis Vuitton’s menswear since 2011 — a long stint by today’s standards — and was the mastermind of Supreme’s era-defining collab with the house. So it’s safe to say that whatever he brings to the table at Dior next season will be dissected and discussed by fashion nerds all over the internet.
To get an idea of what fashion heads can expect from this latest round of musical chairs, Highsnobiety’s Jian DeLeon hit up Greg Babcock, Editor-in-Chief of high fashion resell platform, Grailed.
Jian DeLeon, Editorial Director, Highsnobiety: The first question is, obviously, Kim Jones had amazing impacts during his tenure at Louis Vuitton. What do you think his lasting legacy is? And being at Grailed, what are the most iconic pieces that came into fruition during his time at Louis?
Greg Babcock, Editor-in-Chief, Grailed: I think from a modern perspective, Kim Jones’s impact is understanding how high luxury can mingle with streetwear in a way that feels organic and not forced. I think it’s very easy for luxury brands to make T-shirts or sneakers. But for Jones, I think his most impressive collection, and probably the one that will have the most long-term impact, is going to be his Supreme work, and that’s obvious. But the reality is that by taking a brand that really was ostracized by a luxury space, and bringing it into the luxury realm, he really authenticates where Supreme is at, now.
JD: Well, yeah. Kim Jones has a history there, right? Michael Kopelman gave him his first job at [London streetwear distributor] Gimme 5.
JD: Like Michael Kopelman, the guy who introduced Stüssy to the rest of the world. He didn’t carry it first in London, but he is sort of credited with that. But now, he is still making things happen with Brain Dead. He helped to do their Sasquatchfabrix collab. He is working with Affix, his new brand. So Kim comes from this world, and I think going back to some of his more iconic pieces, he was there for Kanye’s first collaboration.
JD: Like Kanye West’s first sneaker with Louis Vuitton.
GB: The Louis Vuitton Don.
JD: The Jaspers. And this was really before people were really checking for Louis Vuitton in that way, you know?
GB: Yeah. I think we can both recall a time in which Louis Vuitton wasn’t really thought of as a must-see runway collection. It’s just the bags, which is obviously the core of their business. I feel a like a lot of those storied French houses, and we’ll get to this with Dior Homme under Kris Van Assche, is that there may be flashes in the pan, but overall, the men’s offerings are a little out of the loop in terms of what contemporary men are wearing.
But I would assume that someone who is a contemporary guy, who is interested in fashion, is someone who does understand the intersection of streetwear. The universe isn’t just about filling up with luxury items. It’s about finding the right way to wear high and low, which I think is what we would define people who are really established. They do that very effortlessly.
JD: Right. Well, and to talk more about his impact at Louis Vuitton, Grailed just published a ranking of Louis Vuitton. Fall 2014 was definitely one of the GOAT collections, right?
JD: He took Patagonia’s Retro-X snap tees, like the very classic utilitarian fleece bro tops they are known for. And the whole collection was pretty much, like, Oakley Frogskins, Patagonia snap fleeces, and he made it fashion. He made it super luxurious.
And I think if you look at Kim as a designer, that is what his greatest talent is. It’s being able to translate something for the right audience. You know, in the same way that streetwear was about translating high fashion for the guy that was going to The Tunnel. The insider club-kid skate guy.
JD: What Kim did was take what that guy was wearing, and then translate it to the money-rich consumer.
GB: That’s harder than it sounds. What’s really telling about Kim’s time at Louis Vuitton is for Louis Vuitton, you have to have an international perspective. Not just because it’s a huge brand globally, but also because travel is embedded into the very core on what the brand is about.
Kim was saying, here is a style from Japan, and here is a style from France, and here is a style from New York. And being able to take how people dress in those cities and accentuate them and refine them into something that is really applicable, whether you live in Shanghai or San Francisco. I think that’s really important.
JD: Yeah, and even looking at, let’s say something like Fall 2015, which was the collection based on Christopher Nemeth, where it was like they were using the Nemeth embroideries and intricate fabrics. It really just showed what he was bringing to the table. I think it was a fleece peacoat from that collection that stood out, and sort of this mountain-inspired parka that was color blocked with red sleeves.
JD: This is stuff that you would find in the closet of any streetwear guy.
JD: But here, it was a multi-thousand dollar version of it for the person wanted to just ball out on a really luxe version.
GB: I think why Supreme and Louis Vuitton really made good bedfellows, I guess, is because Kim Jones was introducing the Vuitton customer to artists like Christopher Nemeth. There’s a couple different collections that really hit that, where Kim’s talking about different artists that he was feeling based on his travels. And obviously, his Instagram is filled with travel photos because that’s what he does. Cherry-picking those things and introducing people to new art and inspirations feels very core to Supreme.
GB: It helps make Louis Vuitton feel more contemporary, it makes it feel more up-to-date. And I think as we go into Dior, the problem there is that Dior feels very slick. There’s not a layer of wanderlust, which feels really natural to Louis Vuitton.
JD: Let’s be real. Kim Jones is not replacing Kris Van Assche. He is replacing Hedi Slimane.
GB: Yeah. I feel bad because Belgian designers have this mystique about them, thanks to everyone from Margiela to Raf, who we all idealize. We idolize Belgian designers for what they can do, and they show time and again that they are really moving the medium forward. I think the problem for Kris Van Assche, and I don’t know if this was something that was controlled by the executive suite at Dior or Toledano, or if this was something that is just inherent to Van Assche’s design aesthetic, but a lot of his stuff was very flat.
GB: Some things feel like Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, but there is something missing. And I think for Kris, it’s kind of been a long time coming. I think, obviously, Kris worked under Hedi while Hedi was at Dior, and that’s huge. That’s clearly what he was there to help continue. As we look at Hedi Slimane at Céline, it’s very clear that for a designer who has never had his own brand, Hedi Slimane is perhaps one of the most influential designers of all.
GB: And I’m not saying that he wants to be copied, but brands want to tap into what he offers. Kim Jones is going to replace Hedi Slimane’s time at Dior Homme. But the positive, I think what excites me and I’m sure it excites you as well, is that Kim Jones is certainly not the type of designer who is going to just make a bunch of hyper-skinny suits and then just call it a day.
GB: He is going to bring something to it. Kim has always been a collaboration king before he was working with Supreme, right?
JD: We didn’t mention the fact that he got Hiroshi Fujiwara to do an entire fragment collection. And what he reinterpreted was the Damier print, like the classic checkerboard pattern that actually predates the Louis Vuitton monogram. But he was doing an Umbro collab that’s super underrated, right?
JD: It was available at boutiques like Commonwealth, CLOT, places like that. A lot of what he was designing footwear-wise there, you could see that seeping into Louis Vuitton.
JD: And you know, less we forget in 2016, he made a NikeLab collab.
JD: What are the possibilities that you think we’ll see a Dior x Nike collaboration through Kim?
GB: To me, I guess the question I would pose to you is do you imagine that Dior would even want a Nike collab? Is that something that they would even be interested in?
JD: I think so. You look at one of the most hotly anticipated models from Dior right now, and it’s that new running-inspired sneaker, right?
GB: Mm-hmm. That’s true.
JD: Dior is not going to do a collaboration with a UNIQLO, or an H&M any time soon.
JD: But with Nike, you are tapping into one of the most possibly democratic ways to break into the mass market, but still feel luxurious, which is sneakers. You know, Chanel, lest we forget, dropped a Pharrell sneaker limited to colette, right? Comme des Garçons has worked with Nike for many seasons, as has Undercover. In many ways, fashion weeks around the world have now become a place where people see dope sneakers.
JD: So when you’re working and talking in terms of Nike’s collaborations and creating the right kind of energy, which is even if it’s just boosting brand awareness among an audience that you previously weren’t speaking with, that it would make the most sense to have a Dior Nike sneaker. Fitness and wellness are huge, and so here is this opportunity for them to make something along the lines of like a Gyakusou or NikeLab, which are pretty expensive.
GB: 100%. Sure. Yeah, I think what you’re hitting on is something very poignant for menswear. Whereas, I think in women’s fashion, the understanding is we’re going to make a runway collection, but where we’re going to make our money is in fragrances and bags.
JD: Exactly. So let’s end on a high note. Last question to you as the Editor-in-Chief of Grailed: top five pieces from Kim Jones’s time at Louis Vuitton.
GB: But to me, the biggest piece, I guess, of his last show was the Peace and Love sweatshirt. I think what that brings to me is, okay, one, obviously, peace and love, we’re trying to celebrate. But two, it feels like that piece alone is like, hey, I’m saying peace out. I had a great run. I love what I’ve done here, and now, I’m saying goodbye.
GB: Pretty much any bit of the outerwear, like from the Anorak zip jackets from Spring 2012. And for Supreme, the bag, the clout pack, which is just incredible. There is a Christian Nemeth double-breasted coat, it’s like a caramel color, it’s a little bit cropped, It hits right at the waist. That piece as well. Any one of the Louis Vuitton Sukajan style shirts or jackets. And then, one more, to be honest, it’s hard to say.
JD: Not one of the Yeezy’s? Not the Jaspers, or the Dons?
GB: Those to me are like the beginning of Kanye West as we see him now, as opposed to Louis Vuitton. When I look at those shoes, I’m like you couldn’t have the Nike Air Yeezy I without the Louis Vuitton Don. And you couldn’t have the 350 without the Yeezy II.
JD: Word. All right, man. Well, what’s your last piece going to be then, before I let you go?
GB: Oh yeah, I was going to say one of the Fragment Design collabs. The sneakers, didn’t they have sneakers as well? I fuck with those too. I mean it’s hard. A lot of that stuff is something I would see, and then I’m like this is obscenely expensive.
GB: I’m like that’s cool, next page.
JD: For sure. Sort by price.
- Cover Image: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff / Louis Vuitton / Getty Images