Kim Jones is the master of luxury - decadence, opulence, richness. Which is strange, in a way, as he's also, out of all the artistic and creative directors who head up the big posts, perhaps the greatest champion of young talent - he emails back to questions from students, he makes time to support those who are newly emerging onto the scene, he teaches. But, it's those two seemingly at odds roles that make him so skilled at his post at Louis Vuitton - high and low, old and new, tradition and modern entwine, react, clash and compliment each other in his work, season in, season out. That was particularly obvious for A/W 16 - this was a confident show which differed from the vibrant surface-lead crowd-pleaser of last season. It was very Parisian - a tender tribute to the home of Vuitton, after so many collections inspired by exotic travels and eye-opening research trips. It was also an homage to the might of the house - though the palette was muted, the logo was bold, triumphant even.
The nods to the past came from the Art Deco references and twenties and thirties details - trench coats, fur outerwear and belts, tailoring, tight neckscarfs, a striking ribbon motif spelling out 'Volez Voguez Voyagez' and diamonds with the most mesmerising sparkle, a collaboration with Jade Jagger. Jones looked to that period for its role in establishing our current notions of masculine style and elegance - the dandy, the peacock, the foppish chic poser. He'd looked at Vuitton's status in this period and their view of the sophisticated male and worked that into the mix. Jones always feels a desire to pull from the archive, to take old aspects and explore how they can be current or innovative in the eyes of a new generation, while also adding fresh ideas to the Vuitton story. These new elements mainly came through in the make - the cracked finishes, the reversible outerwear, the cashmere-silk fusions.
A modern approach and outlook also came through via the inclusion of a dynamic installation by Japanese artist Shinji Ohmaki - a huge undulating cloth which hung above the catwalk. Jones first encountered the work, Liminal Air Space-Time, in 2012 and was drawn to its sense of movement. To Jones, it suggested fluctuation - a refusal to accept borders and fixed spaces. So, while this show was about Paris, it was also about a global community; the way the French capital does, or should, exist today as a hub of diverse cultures. That nod to a melting pot couldn't seem more apt given current events. The shows this season have felt tense in some ways - security is heightened, there are bag checks at every venue. This poignant and pointed nod to an open, accepting community, encapsulates the way Jones shapes Vuitton according to forward-thinking values.
Tying together all the collection's motifs was the signature monogram - another sign Jones understands his brief at the house of Vuitton perfectly. He works within the parametres of luxury and tradition, creating work that transcends the now, even if it is built out of the desires and needs of today's man. Many aspects of Jones' work are subversive, but the lingering notion is a sense of respect. A perfect balance, perfectly demonstrated for A/W 16.