16 years ago Louis Vuitton sued Supreme for using the likeness of the logo, merged with Supreme’s own branding, on a skateboard deck. Extreme in their reaction, the luxury Parisian house went as far as demanding that the New York state brand incinerate all of the decks. Sweet irony, given today’s events - the opening look of the brand’s A/W 17 show came branded hard with that now ubiquitous red and white, that iconic Supreme lettering. Fast forward 16 years and Vuitton boasts a menswear designer who prides himself of knowledge of the street - of subculture, of sportswear, of the way brands are people-made and can be shaped and transformed by those who appropriate them. Out of all the designers showing today, Jones is perhaps the most skilled at looking back while simultaneously looking forward. Supreme x Louis Vuitton is an utterly modern hook-up - the collaboration of the year and it’s only 19 January. I say that firstly because it’s so easy to see the benefit to both brands - it doesn’t feel like anyone is using anyone else, something that is rare in today’s collaboration-obsessed landscape where brands so regularly draw on the work of artists or independents in the hope of building cultural cache. And secondly, because both Louis Vuitton and Supreme are master collaborators - both prolific in their unions. You could say that Louis Vuitton are in part responsible for kicking off today’s obsession with unions and hook-ups. When Marc Jacobs built the brand’s womenswear business he turned to Stephen Sprouse, to Yayoi Kusama, to Takashi Murakami, to help add punch. Similarly, Jones has worked in the past with the Chapman Brothers and with the Christopher Nemeth archive. Supreme are the masters of mash-ups - The North Face, Malcolm McLaren, Larry Clark, Aquascutum, Comme des Garcons, Brooks Brothers, they’ve worked with them all, aware that in today’s new-hungry environment a fresh collaboration is sure to secure sales, especially when branded with the ever-seductive ‘limited edition’ tag.
But enough on the Supreme bags and trunks. Indeed, that’s the shame with this collection - it will go down in fashion history as Kim Jones’ ‘Supreme’ collection, rather than his ‘Friends and Heroes’ show, as it was actually called. The rest of the collection - the bulk - was deserving of as much attention, as much analysis, as those shiny red bags. In fact, for those too cynical to enjoy the Supreme pieces, the meat and potatoes had plenty to offer. Relaxation was the spirit - pieces had been embedded with slouch, extra room, a sense of undone. Jones had been looking to New York in the seventies and eighties for inspiration, referencing the wardrobes of the artists who dominated this era; Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Julian Schnabel and Andy Warhol. The first was the most visible reference - see those sweeping coats and baggy trousers. But it was really their ethos, rather than aesthetic, that had got Jones excited. He’d returned to collaboration - considering particularly the relationship between Basquiat and Warhol and the personal confidence that is required to collaborate and share with a peer.
A lesson in collaboration - that’s what this show was. Not just because of the Supreme unveiling. Or because of the glance to those artists. But because Kim Jones x Louis Vuitton is the ultimate collaboration - the perfect example of a designer so equipped at delivering what the house that employs him needs, effortlessly, excellently and respectfully.