The collection is inspired by the Beat Generation writers, captured in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 literary classic “On the Road,” and the presentation will include an exhibition of rare books and manuscripts from Jones’ personal collection, accessible exclusively to the guests attending the show at the Olympia London exhibition center.
The designer has been collecting hard-to-find books for around 15 years, but has been more vocal about it since moving in 2019 into his vast new home in London, where his collections are lovingly displayed.
“I have a lot of first editions of Jack Kerouac from his family and his friends, and it’s quite a big collection — about 100 books — so I thought I’d utilize that,” Jones said. “I love the way that the Beat poets shifted the way of thinking.”
The designer has put collaborations on pause at Dior, after working with leading artists including Kaws, Daniel Arsham, Peter Doig and Amoako Boafo, and joining forces last season with rapper Travis Scott on his spring 2022 collection.
While the collection was critically acclaimed, its fate is up in the air following the death of 10 people at Scott’s Astroworld Festival last month, which has jeopardized the musician’s ties with partners and sponsors. “It’s something that we are evaluating and we are discussing internally, and we’ll watch the situation,” Christian Dior Couture chairman and chief executive officer Pietro Beccari told WWD last month.
Jones spoke to WWD during a visit to Paris in late October, before the Astroworld disaster, meaning the decision to suspend collaborations had already been taken before the deadly turn of events.
“There’s no collaborations for a while, but that was my choice,” he said. “At Dior, we did three collaborations this year, and then the other 10 collections we’ve done aren’t with collaborators, so you know, it’s only a small part of my work, but people don’t see that.”
Instead, he has found another way to connect his designs to something he loves. “When you tie something in that you’re interested in, people appreciate it and customers react well to it. They like to know more about the person, but it’s something that’s not really about me, so it’s useful, because I’m quite private,” Jones explained.
Adding gravitas to this season’s homage, he worked with Kerouac’s nephew Jim Sampas, literary executor of the Estate of Jack Kerouac. The exhibition is curated by Sammy Jay, in charge of the modern literature department at London-based Peter Harrington Rare Books, which bills itself as the largest antiquarian book dealer in Europe.
It centers around Kerouac and his acolytes Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg, who inspired the characters Dean Moriarty and Carlo Marx in “On the Road,” but also encompasses the wider culture they ushered in. There are 66 books, more than 15 letters and manuscripts, six vinyl records, a poster, some drawings — and even Ginsberg’s credit card.
“I mean, I’ve got things like Virginia Woolf’s teapot in my house. I’ve got Roger Fry’s desk, I’ve got all these different things. There’s an energy that comes off certain things, especially in my library, because I’ve got such an amazing amount of books in there,” said Jones.
Jay has been helping the designer hunt for rare editions for the last couple of years, and previously worked with him on a curation of books and manuscripts from Britain’s Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf, for Jones’ haute couture debut for Fendi at Paris Fashion Week in January 2021.
“In his collecting, Kim rarely settles for ‘just’ a first edition. Most of his books are also inscribed by the author to someone significant,” Jay said in a statement. For instance, Jones owns multiple copies of “On the Road,” including a first edition inscribed to José Garcia Villa, a Greenwich Village poet who features in the novel.
“I have [Kerouac’s] mother’s copy of ‘On the Road’ and I have Lucien Carr’s copy of ‘On the Road,’ and also Gore Vidal’s,” he reeled off. Then there are books inscribed by “Junkie” author William Burroughs to artist David Hockney; Ginsberg to painter Georgia O’Keeffe, or poet Ted Joans to Andy Warhol.
The items on show also include Lou Reed’s original hand-corrected draft lyrics to songs from the Velvet Underground’s debut album, and a rare first edition of French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s “Une saison en enfer,” which has inspired generations of rebels.
“Kim has a lot to choose from, so in making the selection I had to think what story we wanted to tell. Comradeship is important here — especially now it feels valuable to celebrate and remember the creative possibilities of people coming together. The selection, as such, is highly eclectic, yet deeply interconnected,” Jay explained.
Jones is incorporating the designs of several book covers into his collection. “When ‘On the Road’ was written, it was very much the same time that Christian Dior was changing things,” he said. “So there’s this sort of synergy of it that I think is interesting: two different ways of approaching how you change the world.”
Sampas views it as a teaser of sorts for the 100th anniversary of Kerouac’s birth on March 12, 2022. “I’m anticipating designs that draw from midcentury aesthetics, channel the energy and adventurousness of Kerouac’s prose, with a modern twist appealing to a 2022 audience,” he said in a statement.
Jones traces his love of books to his mother, who set up several libraries at African universities during his childhood years, which were spent in Botswana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana.
“We had a huge amount of books at home, and I used to hate the way the shelves looked, because they were so messy. So I spent days organizing them in order, whether it was by publisher, or it was chronological and by publisher,” he recalled. “So obviously, then, I was interested and I pulled off the shelves and read.”
The designer pursued his passion, despite being dyslexic. “You struggle through things, don’t you, if you’re that interested,” he said with a shrug. “A lot of young people are going back to reading, not looking at their phone all the time and looking at books, and I think that’s quite a healthy thing to encourage people to do.”
Indeed, Jay hopes that the exhibit will inspire others.
“Rare books have always seemed glamorous to me, but to see them brought into this particularly luminous limelight is a thrill. I hope it is interesting too for people who have never seen or thought about this sort of material before, to see it brought together in this way, and perhaps to think about building their own collections,” he said.
“Collecting books is a way of representing to yourself what you care about. The fact that Kim takes this to the next level and wants to show the world what he cares about, and what he can create out of that passion, is wonderful,” he added.