Kim Jones nearly died for Louis Vuitton. His research trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile—the oldest and highest desert on earth—coincided with the windy season. The tiny plane he flew in on was so savagely buffeted by updrafts, downdrafts, and everything in between that he'd have said prayers if he thought they would have helped. But he landed safely, absorbed the Mars-like lack of atmosphere, and returned to Paris with a new collection germinating in his mind.
Jones, the son of a geologist, has been mesmerized all his life by the intricate miracles of the natural world. Now, as style director of Louis Vuitton's menswear, he has the resources at his fingertips to alchemize his passion into physical objects. As challenging as Atacama was—and Cuzco and Nazca and Machu Picchu and the other places he visited on his research trip—Jones found a wealth of inspiration in the colors of the landscape and the crafts and the cloths of the indigenous population. They helped shape the Vuitton collection he showed today. The venue, for instance, was transformed top to bottom, hand-painted with an aerial image of Atacama. And the Andes loomed from the first look, a double-face cashmere coat striped like a traditional Chilean dress, with buttons of stone resembling the stones on the plains of Nazca. Draped over one shoulder was a long scarf woven from wool and alpaca.
Alpaca, native to Chile and Peru, was a cornerstone of the collection, fuzzing up the front of a sweater and a cashmere coat, woven into blanket stripes for a blouson. But Jones rolled out the really big guns with a handful of pieces made from the wool of another Andean native, the vicuña, rarest of the rare, ludicrously luxurious. So much so, in fact, that the vicuña coat, blouson, and lounging suits will be available only as part of Vuitton's made-to-order service.
If there was paradox in ultimate luxury being extracted from some of the poorest regions of the world, there was also affirmation of the questing spirit that drives the true traveler to such extremes. That's the spirit Jones has brought to Vuitton. And it doesn't stop with souvenirs of his physical trips. This collection had not just the obvious luxury of the Andean fibers, but also the surprise of a parka in silk, not nylon; of track pants in super-light shearling rather than some high-performance synthetic; and of a trenchcoat reversing from gray cashmere to camel silk. Jones also transformed Vuitton's signature Damier check, reconfiguring it in a deep cobalt blue. A travel bag and wallet in the cobalt Damier are available online now.