Kim Jones, star of Rimowa's new campaign, explains how travel fuels his life
"I think my autobiography would be called My Life Out of a Suitcase, for sure,” says Kim Jones, who’s currently working as the artistic director of Dior Men after logging a critically acclaimed seven years working on the men’s side of Louis Vuitton.
“Because it is how I live my life. Even though my main home is in London, I’m constantly looking in the suitcase for stuff, because I’m always in a few countries each week.”
Considering that always-on-the-go lifestyle, Jones’s outing as one of the stars of luxury luggage brand Rimowa’s “Never Still” campaign (LeBron James and Chinese pianist Yuja Wang) is a natural fit. Still, despite his position at the forefront of the fashion industry and the recognition that comes with it, he wasn’t quite ready to see himself supersized. “I’ve never been asked to be in a campaign before, and I never really thought through to the fact that I’d be on these giant billboards everywhere,” he says. The experience, he explains, is “kind of mind-blowing and a slightly out-of-body experience, but fun to do as well.”
In addition to those billboards, Jones also stars in a video that intersperses imagery from Tokyo and India to create an almost hallucinogenic contrast between the two locales. The former, Jones says, “is somewhere I spend a huge amount of my time, and it’s somewhere that I do a lot of work.” The latter he describes as “a personal escape,” where he drinks in the culture, but even more than that, the wilderness and wildlife. “When I saw tigers in the wild there, I was like, ‘Oh, what else is there to see? I want to see more, more.’”
That hunger for exploration is a recurring theme for Jones. “My thing is to see the world, in my lifetime,” he says. “The whole world, preferably.” He uses travel both as a way to generate new ideas and to clear his head, and likens it to a period—a full stop, as the English say— at the end of a sentence. “And then you start the next sentence. That’s how I’d describe it.”
In an increasingly connected world—and a fashion industry obsessed with social media platforms like Instagram—it can be easy to feel a sense of global homogenization, like an outfit you see half a world away could also show up half a block away. But Jones doesn’t necessarily see things that way.
“The minute you get outside of the city, things change completely,” he explains. And even in cities, especially those that aren’t generally considered fashion capitols, you see what he calls different “dialects” of style: local interpretations of more universal ideas. “I like to go to places like Cape Town where you have these new young generations that have come up post-Apartheid and are now experimenting with their fashion in a different way. And two cultures are coming together which weren’t allowed to get together before, so you get something quite interesting.”
He’s leery of the idea that something like Instagram is a real reflection of the state of style at large. “I think we always look for a very introspective idea of what fashion is in terms of what we look at on Instagram, because we choose who to follow,” he says. That self-selection creates an echo chamber, “so we see the same thing a lot. But when you start looking around [the world], it can be quite different, and I think different is good.”
That mentality—of celebrating difference through reinterpretation and personalization—is something he carries through to his work. “I don’t dictate to people how to wear what I design. I like to see how people choose a piece and then make it their own. That excites me as a designer.”
Back to Rimowa, and that mashup of imagery between Tokyo and rural India: Jones says it was one way to telegraph the disparate parts of his personality. “I think a lot of people now know that there’s not just one side of me as a fashion designer. I do work in conservation, I am interested in multiple different things.” But the common thread through it all is travel.
“In one week, like week before last, I was in five different countries. I’m used to living like that, and it’s how I like to live. Different things fuel you, I guess.”
And constantly being on the move fuels you?