Applauded to the roof while flanked by Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss on his final circuit, Kim Jones made quite an exit from Louis Vuitton today. Jones has been artistic director for menswear since 2011, building up its reputation with men and boys—majorly because of last year’s phenomenal Supreme collaboration, but also because he’s a really good designer who inspires loyalty.
“It makes me very emotional,” he admitted in an interview in the manic end-of-era atmosphere in the Vuitton studio a day before the show. As soon as he’d posted the news of his leaving that morning on his Instagram feed, “there were, like, 800 comments immediately, and they were all super-positive, which you never know these days,” he said.
His departure after seven years is amicable and his choice, though he gave no clue as to where he is headed (Versace or Burberry being the much-speculated-over possibilities). “I thought this was a nice way to leave,” he said, indicating a honey beige cashmere LV monogrammed sweater emblazoned with Peace and Love, bound to sell out as a souvenir of his tenure.
Performing the feat of making a super-expensive brand seem accessibly aspirational to a mass audience has made Jones something of a cult figure among young men in the age of social media. Instagram itself was only just invented (in 2010) when he joined. Reflecting on what has happened since, he remarked,
“It’s how things have changed. The speed of it. If you don’t evolve, you die.”
How did he evolve the label? Even without the afterglow of Supreme (and there was some blowback on the credibility of the worshipped skate brand for collaborating), Jones tweaked the ever-present travel heritage of Vuitton to make it sync with the experiential preferences of the much-vaunted millennial generation—their valuing of doing above owning. His final collection was all about that: getting outdoors, albeit shod in the most costly of hiking boots known to man, and, in one case, with a backpack consisting of a Louis Vuitton suitcase equipped with a dangling camo fur blanket roll.
Jones, who is English, was born in Africa and has a genuinely voracious appetite for travel, nature, and animals, in addition to being an encyclopedic authority on street and underground fashion. The scratchy rock–textured prints in the collection were developed from his own aerial landscape photographs taken from a helicopter in Kenya last summer. His other source of inspiration came from watching a rodeo in Wyoming.
“The flank men wear these sweat-shorts so we did them in cashmere. And I thought it would be a nice nod to the Western to embroider this leather jacket with flowers, like they do cowboy boots.”
The genius extra twist came with the patchwork-printed monogrammed leggings. After all the wide, oversize fashion that’s been slopping around recently, they suddenly looked like a brainwave of a backlash. Jones’s quality geekiness was also fully on show. Coats with detachable linings, metallic threads, taped seams, and zippers, and that holy grail of luxury, the vicuña coat—all these items and their super-advanced technicalities are exactly the kinds of details that appeal to the psychology of one-upmanship.
Those who will actually get their hands on them will be few. But as Kim Jones waves goodbye, there will be many who will be eager to follow where he’s going.
This article first appeared in Vogue.com.