TOKYO — Kim Jones feted the launch of his capsule collection with Uniqlo sister brand GU at a cocktail party at Dover Street Market Ginza last Friday. Before guests arrived, he spoke exclusively with WWD about his experience working with Fast Retailing and his plans for the future — with just a tiny hint about the upcoming announcement three days later of his appointment as the new artistic director of ready-to-wear and accessories at Dior Homme.
Jones said when he was approached by GU, it seemed like a natural fit, considering many of his fans are in Asia, particularly Japan.
“When I had Kim Jones as a label, [Japan] was the place it was superpopular. You’d see people walking down the street head-to-toe in it and there was a real cult following, so I just thought it was the nicest place to start it again. Originally we were going to do London and Japan, but it was complicated to do, so we just did it in Japan, and I am really happy it is in Japan,” the designer said.
For the GU collection, Jones is reissuing some of his favorite pieces — with small updates — from his eponymous line, which ceased operation a decade ago. He said he is excited to bring these items to a new generation of street-style enthusiasts.
“A lot of young people contact me through social media, or people have researched me and they’ve started looking at old Kim Jones collections. And I thought it’s nice to do something 10 years after finishing it and also because I’m having a gap between two jobs, so I thought it was nice to do something that was just sort of fun and light, easy,” he said, teasing his move from Louis Vuitton and the Monday revelation that he would be joining Dior Homme, also part of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable. “I really just like that fact that it’s young people interested in fashion. There’s an element of the street in what I did for my [brand]. It was quite advanced for its time, so it’s nice showing people what it’s like now.”
Compared with his work for luxury companies like Vuitton, Jones said working with GU was different.
“Vuitton was very luxury, high-end and I did lots of things obviously with people that I really enjoyed working with and admired, like Hiroshi [Fujiwara] and Supreme, the Chapman brothers, things like that, and all the people I love at Vuitton,” he said. “But this is different, this is for a different audience. And for me it’s a celebration of 10 years ago doing something very modern that’s still very relevant now, and the new generation can enjoy it.”
Jones said he thinks GU’s typically low prices — which are even lower than Uniqlo’s — were a perfect fit for the pieces. And while he has no intention of restarting the Kim Jones label as he’s in a different chapter of his life now, he said if he were to do so he would want it to be a mass-market brand in order to reach more young people.
“I wanted it so that young, young people could buy it. It’s about informing a new generation about stuff. And I think it’s cool to do it at a price that anyone who loves fashion or wants something good can afford it. Because everything is so expensive and I think for young people now it’s quite difficult with money, so [I’d like to] give them a nice thing. I think not everything has to be about making tons of money. Sometimes it’s about making things that people love,” he said.
Even though the prices are low — 990 yen, or $8.50, for T-shirts; 1,990 yen, or $18.70, for sweatshirts, and 4,990 yen, or $47, for an embroidered denim jacket — Jones said he didn’t compromise on quality.
“The one thing I really liked about it when we looked at it was the quality of things. For the price point, which is really amazing, the quality is really good. They impressed me with that,” he said.
“A lot of people have done Uniqlo, but I like to do things first,” Jones added. “Uniqlo has had a lot of collaborators, and I think that doing something with a sister brand is more forward-thinking for me. I like to challenge things and look at things in a slightly different way, and it was nice to treat it as a sort of blank canvas and start fresh. I think that was what I was interested in. Because people in certain places know GU, but people in other places have no idea what it is. So it’s good for both sides; it works in a nice way.”
Another example of Jones’ penchant for doing things in unexpected ways is his decision to launch the collection first at Dover Street Market Ginza, before it hits GU stores on Wednesday.
“We wanted to do something that was kind of like a bit of a surprise, and Adrian [Joffe] and Rei [Kawakubo] have always been very supportive of what I’ve done. So I said to them, why not have this as a special thing for the celebration of the 10th anniversary since I finished my label, and obviously they loved it. And I think it’s nice that it’s the place the audience who would go and buy it, would come to. It’s very logical,” he said.
Kim Jones GU Production, as the line has been officially dubbed, will consist of two seasons, and both are already in the bag for the designer.
“We’ve got spring/summer in one, autumn/winter in another, so it’s two drops. And it was basically, I took all my favorite things I did for any spring/summer [season], which is mainly jersey and T-shirts and things, but autumn/winter is really about clothes, and I really, really like that,” Jones said. “We’ve done that already, because it just made sense to do greatest hits one, greatest hits two. But then we’ve done twists to update them a little bit to now. I think it’s really nice to do it like that. And they amazed me how the quality is really, really good and how much they cost. I mean, there’s a denim jacket in the collection which I think is about 35 euros [about 5,000 yen], but everybody that sees it is just wowed.”