Whatever I was expecting when meeting Kim Jones – Louis Vuitton's Artistic Director of men's collections – the affable, down-to-earth Brit wearing beaten-up Nikes with a fascination for quokkas wasn't it.
Since taking up the role at LV in 2011, Jones has been hailed as being the driving force behind the revitalisation of menswear as a marketable, and wearable, industry. He was doing androgynous looks long before Gucci's recent reinvention and was well ahead of the activewear trend, mixing sneakers with tailoring on the runway early in his career.
He recently arrived in Australia to launch the very first Louis Vuitton men's pop-up store at Westfield Sydney, open until December 18.
"I've always mixed street and high end clothes in my collections – although streetwear is a funny term because it's on the street that we wear everything really," says Jones. "A lot of my clothes are also just about men wanting to be comfortable. Men want to wear comfortable shoes, whether it's outside or in the office."
An Englishman in Paris
Designers of this calibre are meant to be aloof, cerebral and don't normally travel to Australia, preferring to stick to the holy trinity of Milan, Paris and London. But clearly Jones isn't like other designers. For instance, he freely admits that his favourite TV shows are Hoarders and Prisoner: Cell Block H.
If you don't make clothes that are comfy or look nice it doesn't really work does it?Kim Jones
As we sat down in the inner sanctums of Louis Vuitton's Sydney offices, he immediately confesses to being hit with a wave of jet lag. It's an entirely human moment that seems to set the tone for the rest of the talk that is both frank in his assessment of the fashion industry (design for the buyers, not for yourself) and how he likes to spend time on the shop floor and hear what said buyers have to say. Feedback, straight from the consumer's wallet so to speak.
The people's designer
In fact, it's the people who wear his clothes that inspire and motivate Jones the most.
"It sounds quite boring and commercial, but it's true," he says, chuckling. "If you don't make clothes that are comfy or look nice it doesn't really work does it? I always get really excited when I see someone I don't know wearing my clothes … I love meeting our customers all around the world, going into the store and talking to them about what works and what doesn't, what sells and what doesn't."
Globalisation in fashion
Aside from the people, it's the broader concept of a global community that keeps Jones at the top of his game and constantly fed with new ideas. An outlook possibly influenced from a nomadic childhood spent travelling and living in different parts of the world.
"I look at everything," he says.
"Generally, men wear the same thing all around the world aside from some traditional costumes. I look at cultures, at hill tribes in South East Asia, South America or anywhere else in the world. And then I look and see how this might be relevant with what is happening with the brand at the moment."
Out of Africa
His latest Spring/Summer menswear collection, which will be available to purchase in the pop-up store, was inspired by vintage illustrations found in a book drawn by early explorers in Cape Town while travelling through South Africa. Jones reached out to illustrators the Chapman brothers – who had worked with Jones on previous collections – to transform what was already surreal and somewhat inaccurate imagery into a more nightmarish, horror comic aesthetic.
It's also one of the most personally revealing collections that Jones has done for the brand to date, drawing as it does on his both his own personal interests and experience growing up. This is a break from his traditional stance of not letting the private interfere with the commercial: "I don't think about myself when I'm designing, but there are always things I want to wear.
"I knew I wanted to do this collection because I plan things quite far in advance, but it became more personal as the design process went on," he explains.
Just like us
As far as current inspirations, Jones is just like us – binge watching Netflix shows The Crown, American Horror Story, and surprisingly our very own Border Security.
"I find it so relaxing! It's really weird and crazy how people get into fights over this stuff. I can't tell if it's scripted or not? I did try to see if I could see any staff members from the show at the airport but I didn't have any luck."
The Louis Vuitton menswear pop-up store is located on level 3, Westfield Sydney and will be open until December 18.
Check the gallery above to see the complete Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 2017 menswear collection.