Kim Jones' debut as men's style director at Louis Vuitton today was a coup similar to the one achieved by Vuitton's artistic director, Marc Jacobs, 14 years ago. A union that seemed unlikely on the surface turned out in actuality to be a relationship of remarkable, intimate compatibility. In the four months since he was appointed to the position, Jones and his team managed to turn out a collection that wove his own history into Vuitton's heritage. The common bond? Travel. Vuitton has always been the traveler's brand. Jones grew up in Kenya, and his life since has been defined by a nomadic spirit.
But the personality of his first LV collection was just as contingent on Jones' famous connoisseurship of pop culture (made obvious by a front row that included Kanye West, Lily Allen, and Michael Stipe). He'd been thinking about photographer Peter Beard, the once-gorgeous Kennedy-like apogee of American aristocracy whose life and work have been devoted to the Africa that Jones is equally enamored of. (The show was tracked by Talking Heads' "I Zimbra.") Like Beard, the consummate WASP gone native, the collection ran a gamut from city suits to tribal textures. A Masai blanket Jones has at home as a souvenir of his East African childhood inspired an extraordinary passage of cornea-searing blue-and-red plaids. Wild alligator was tamed in a jacket paired with pajama-striped pants. Crocodile was revisited as a varsity jacket with sleeves in navy cotton canvas. There were gold and navy tops in shimmering raffia.
Underscoring Jones' achievement was the fact that the more "western" pieces were equally seductive. The tailoring felt fresh and youthful, and the designer had effortlessly cracked the codes of the house with the easy, functional luxury of pieces like the tan Harrington with leather-ribbed cuffs and waistband, or the suede parka that folded away into its own pac-a-mac bag. And, for get-up-and-go ingenuity, the sandals that packed flat and snapped into shape were hard to beat. Jones showed them with his midnight blue silk mohair evening suits, just to make the point that traveling light need not mean traveling low-rent. Anyway, that would be next to impossible with any one of the bags that accompanied the clothes. From tobacco-toned totes to festival-ready knapsacks, the luggage danced attendance on a new dawn for Louis Vuitton's menswear.