Men’s wear mavens are shaping up as the new millennium’s hot fashion commodities, with Kim Jones the latest marquee talent to turn to women’s wear.
WWD was the first to report on Wednesday that Jones is joining Fendi in Rome as artistic director of haute couture, ready-to-wear and fur collections for women, picking up responsibilities previously handled by the late Karl Lagerfeld for more than 50 years.
The British designer is also to continue as artistic director of men’s collections at Dior in Paris, where he has nimbly incorporated such materials as fur, taffeta, chiffon and crystals into his collections.
It is understood Jones has harbored ambitions to design women’s wear for some time, and held discussions with Versace and Burberry in recent years. He closed his swan song show for Louis Vuitton in 2018 with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell striding out in monogram trench coats.
Hedi Slimane, who ushered in more than decade of skinny tailoring with his Dior for men, first turned his hands to women’s wear in 2012 when he took the creative helm at Yves Saint Laurent, while Raf Simons, famed for his takes on teenage male angst, first tried his hand with dresses in 2005 at Jil Sander.
More recently, Lanvin recruited Bruno Sialelli, a men’s wear designer from Loewe, to lead its design studios.
Additionally, fashion star Jonathan Anderson, who launched his J.W. Anderson brand with men’s wear in 2008, added women’s three years later and has won wide acclaim for his signature collections, along with the women’s line he does for Spanish house Loewe, where he also does the men’s wear.
“The leading men’s designers have managed to combine function, subversive culture, quality, sustainable materials and modern craftsmanship — and this is what defines today,” said Floriane de Saint Pierre, who operates a namesake search and consulting firm in Paris. “What equally defines the time is fluidity in all ways, namely gender fluidity. Hence, the need for such creative leaders at the helm of women’s lines.”
As reported Wednesday on WWD.com, Fendi said Jones would work in tandem with Silvia Venturini Fendi, who has soldiered on as the main creative force and media figurehead following Lagerfeld’s death in February 2019. Venturini Fendi will continue to head the accessories and men’s collections at Fendi.
The development put Jones in a rare league straddling two marquee luxury brands.
It also resolves the delicate issue of succession at Fendi, which never officially said that Venturini Fendi was replacing Lagerfeld, unlike Chanel, which immediately upon the German designer’s passing identified his longtime studio director Virginie Viard as its new artistic director.
“LVMH knew they had an amazing and versatile designer in their stable and wanted to keep him happy,” observed Mary Gallagher, European associate for executive search firm Martens & Heads. “He’s a known quantity so carrying on from Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi and simultaneously helming Dior Men’s wasn’t a risk. Karl Lagerfeld paved the way for a shared creative director and Kim has that creativity, versatility and energy. LVMH got a two-fer in Kim — another example of the sharing economy.”
Jones should bring considerable heat to Fendi, given his formidable design chops, flair for unexpected collaborations, and his wide circle of famous friends, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Donatella Versace and David Beckham.
A veteran of French luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Jones came on board in 2011 as men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton, parlaying his zest for exotic travel into ultraluxurious collections with understated cool and sly functionality. He helped ignite the luxury streetwear phenomenon with the landmark 2017 collaboration with Supreme, the cult New York skatewear brand.
Since moving over to Dior Men in 2018, Jones has done collections with fine artists Daniel Arsham, Kaws and Amoako Boafo, the surfwear maven Shawn Stussy, and Air Jordan. The latter yielded one of the most sought-after sneakers of 2020, the Air Jordan 1 OG Dior limited-edition.
Jones is to show his first collection for Fendi in February 2021.
“Kim Jones is a great talent and since joining, he has continuously proven his ability to adapt to the codes and heritage of the LVMH houses while revisiting them with great modernity and audacity,” said Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer at LVMH. “At Fendi, I am convinced that his vision and passion will highly contribute to the success of the women’s collections.”
Serge Brunschwig, chairman and ceo of Fendi added: “Kim is one of the most talented and relevant designers of today. With Silvia Venturini Fendi, who has virtuously carried on Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld legacy, Kim will bring his contemporary one of a kind point of view into the world of Fendi.”
Venturini Fendi, whose title is artistic director of Fendi accessories and menswear, welcomed Jones, “to whom I am bound by deep respect and friendship. I am looking forward to take the Fendi universe to the next level with him.”
Since joining Dior, Jones has embraced his growing status as a public figure, appearing in a campaign for Rimowa — a prelude to the exclusive collaboration with the luggage maker.
“I think the perception of me has changed quite a lot in the last year and a half, but I’m still the same person,” he told WWD in an interview last year. “I’m more publicly visible, people come up to me in the street a lot more. I appreciate that. I’m always shocked when people that I really admire know who I am.”
Jones has had a storied fashion career, with John Galliano snapping up his graduate collection from Central Saint Martins.
He initially launched a signature men’s wear label, and experimented with some women’s looks in 2004. Known for its sporty, streetwear edge, the Kim Jones brand lasted for eight seasons and attracted the attention of Dunhill, where he was creative director from 2008 to 2011.
Jones is seen as one of a small clutch of marquee designers who can toggle between the luxury and streetwear worlds — and now two countries and two distinct houses.
“Working across two such prestigious houses is a true honor as a designer and to be able to join the house of Fendi as well as continuing my work at Dior Men’s is a huge privilege,” Jones said.