A very British farewell at France's Louis Vuitton
Fashion never loves a finale, though no one could not say that Thursday’s departure from Louis Vuitton by Kim Jones was not done with a great deal of grace. Six years after staging his first show as Vuitton’s menswear designer, Jones took his final bow arm-in-arm with two fellow Brits – Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. And, to his credit, Jones left on a high note with a skilful collection where logo-mania met haute gamme street style – an assemblage he has utilised with some brilliance during his tenure at the house.
Jones’ big idea was the crater print - huge earth and stone images used in nylon blousons; techy tops; reduced hunting parkas and leggings. All anchored by titanium python hiking boots and staged with Jones’ wacky humour – like a monogram print wheelie down as humongous backpack. And finished with a neat dose of futurism – notable in the silver metal sheen of baseball jackets and calf leather coats.
Uber semi-active sports-leisure that all looked very now: pricey yet not pretentious, just cool. Before the audience rose to their feet in a huge round of applause as Naomi and Kate, wearing, respectively, black and brown monogram glazed Macassar raincoats, marched Jones through his final LV ovation.
David, Victoria and Brooklyn Beckham all sat front row, beside football stars Neymar and Kevin Trapp of Paris Saint-Germain. Though the Big Daddy of them all, Bernard Arnault, the patron and chairman of LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that controls Vuitton, was conspicuously absent. Two of his sons, however, Antoine and Alexandre, did sit front row in a circular catwalk done in putty grey and built inside Jones’ favoured show location, the Palais Royal.
Two days ago, Vuitton CEO Michael Burke announced officially that Jones would be leaving Vuitton. He had little further to add at the show, and was not apparent in the post-show backstage, where scores of Britons swilled down Ruinart (an another LVMH brand) in a boozy farewell for Jones. Then again, the French will never love a wake like the Anglo-Saxons do.
Asked about his next move, Jones – whose name has been linked with both Versace in Milan and Burberry in London – was circumspect.
“Today is about Louis Vuitton, and not me. The house of Vuitton has treated me extremely well in my time here and I’d like to respect that in this moment,” Jones demurred. His next stop? “A long vacation in the Maldives!” he laughed.
There was certainly no shortage of busy or unemployed designer talent at this show. Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing; Off-White’s Virgil Abloh; Stefano Pilati, ex of Yves Saint Laurent. Though, in truth, Burke would not have to look far for an ideal replacement for Jones, seeing as Grace Wales Bonner, a LVMH Prize winner, and the creator of the single most acclaimed runway show so far in the London season, quietly slipped into a second-row season just as the lights went dark.
“I’d love to work for a great house. But, to be honest, I think I still have some more to learn at my own brand first,” Wales Bonner said quietly.
And so, in a week when Emmanuel Macron rather gallantly agreed to send the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain; it was striking to see the turnout for a Briton leaving a major position in France. In effect, this marked the departure of one of the three most successful British designers working for a French luxury brand this century. And no matter how you add it up, that cannot be a very good thing for Louis Vuitton.
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