Finding inspiration in leading contemporary artists, creative director and lifelong collector Kim Jones infuses Dior Homme with thoughtful collaborations. Now, Jones turns his distinctive eye to Sotheby’s upcoming Contemporary Curated auction.
L asers illuminate a 12-meter-high metallic robot balanced seductively on one leg. This hyper-realistic “fembot,” as artist and creator Hajime Sorayama calls her, commands the center of the circular runway at the Dior Homme Pre-Fall 2019 show in Tokyo. Her futurism complements the brand’s modern approach under new artistic director Kim Jones. Since taking on this role in 2018, Jones has marked each collection by collaborating with a contemporary artist.
It began with street artist KAWS, who not only reinterpreted the brand’s iconic bee logo, but who also fabricated a towering rose and peony sculpture of his famous “BFF” character for Spring/Summer 2019 in Paris. Work with Raymond Pettibon followed, as did collaborations with Sorayama, Daniel Arsham, Alex Foxton and jewelry designer Yoon Ahn.
The partnerships recall Christian Dior’s own origins as a gallerist working with the leading contemporary artists of his day. But mostly they characterize the creative career and artistic pursuits of fastidious collector Jones, a graduate of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. “When I was a kid, I collected toys,” Jones told T Magazine in February 2019. “I was obsessive with toys and books. If I was into a writer, I’d want to read every book by them and then keep them in order.” Today Jones is still drawn to novels from the Bloomsbury Group, as well as to archival fashions by the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and Rachel Auburn.
It is fitting, then, for Jones to partner with Sotheby’s for the March auction of Contemporary Curated, where he selects his favorite works. Ahead of the sale, he speaks to Ed Tang about working with artists, collecting for love and creative journeys.
Ed Tang: What’s your relationship between fashion and art?
Kim Jones: For me, I always look at culture when it comes to fashion and art. Both are within culture, and I draw inspiration from each of them. It's an organic relationship for me. From the beginning of fashion, designers worked with artists and artists worked with designers; it goes hand in hand.
ET: Our initial encounters with art can be formative in how we grow to appreciate and collect art, or even in how we create it. What are some of your earliest experiences with visual art?
KJ: I became interested in art because I always knew I was creative, and as a kid I was sketching all the time. One of the main artists that I was very interested in was Andy Warhol because I liked the way that he was a brand, and it really struck me. Actually, one of the first things I ever bought when I could afford it a Warhol print from the Cow series because it was the first picture I really loved. The other thing I truly loved was the Bloomsbury Group, because my parents had a house near Charleston Farmhouse. I started collecting Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and Omega Workshops furniture, and I was excited by the beauty of it and by the freedom they had – how they were sort of the rebels of their time.
ET: What does your personal collection include beyond that first Warhol and the Bloomsbury Group? Do you ever collect for investment? Does your love of travel play into what you collect or is there a particular formula to your collecting?
KJ: I collect things for love, not for investment. I have a lot of contemporary art. For instance, I have quite a lot of Derek Jarman's work, which I like immensely. I also have a lot of photography from artists like Jackie Nickerson, Pieter Hugo, Peter Beard and Danny Lyon, among others. A lot of the photography I collect I first see on my various travels.
It's funny because in all the things I collect, there's a connection, oftentimes tangential, where something will be linked to another. I like the stories that interweave and the exploration of different relationships, whether it's photographers and artists – or designers – and how these relationships are woven together across the world.
“I collect things for love, not for investment.”
There’s no formula to my collecting; each room is slightly different in my house. For example, I love Alex Foxton’s work, who's a new artist. It’s nice to see someone who’s had a career in fashion go into painting. I love his use of brushstrokes and I find his works very creative.
I buy things that I feel comfortable with and that are also easy for me to live with. I have a Francis Bacon rug and a fragment painting. I just love the fact that he had this ever-changing career with many different facets. My interests are not limited to contemporary and post-war artists – I also have a Picasso, so my collection is wide-ranging.
ET: You’ve been a pioneer in terms of collaborating with artists. What is the significance of these collaborations?
KJ: For me, collaborating with artists is important, especially at Christian Dior, because he was a gallerist for 10 years before he was a couturier. I think I loved Dior so much because he was a gallerist with a love of art, but also because his first love was nature, and his other love was couture, which I can relate to. I look at who he was working with at his time, and it was Picasso, it was Max Ernst, it was Salvador Dalí – the biggest names of that moment. I chose to work with artists who have that stature now and to whom people can relate. KAWS was my first collaboration at Dior, because he is a Warhol-like figure to the younger generation. I also worked with Raymond Pettibon because I've always loved his work. And to take something like his work which comes from the punk scene and bringing it into haute couture is something that is interesting and new. Each person we collaborate with is completely different. There’s no formula, but it's really fun for me and my team to be involved with these artists, and to learn different ways of thinking and different techniques. For example, in the collaboration we did last year with Daniel Arsham, he was extremely innovative with the fabrications.
ET: What is a typical process for one of your artist collaborations and what is the common thread between these artists?
KJ: Before I answer that, I have to say that Marc Jacobs is a huge influence on me in terms of collaboration, because when I started working at Louis Vuitton he had done these big collaborations with artists like Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami and Stephen Sprouse. These artists he worked with shared a clarity of vision, unique point of view and confidence. And you know what? The one thing I know with my collaborations is that I am also drawn to this confidence and to the strong signature of each artist. They are confident because they are extremely good at what they do and that is what is most interesting to me when collaborating.
ET: Beyond art, you also collect a lot of other things, whether that's furniture, books or fashion pieces.
KJ: A passion of mine are first-edition books – especially by Virginia Woolf. I'm very lucky to have Vita Sackville-West’s copy of Orlando, as well as Vanessa Bell's, the two most important women in her life. My collection also includes works from the Beat Generation and other first-edition novels of importance.
I also have a very extensive London-based design collection, with pieces from Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and Rachel Auburn, among others. And then there's records, and there's ephemera, then there's ceramics, and so on.
ET: So you're a collector through and through?
KJ: Yes. I'm very organized and ordered.
ET: You've worked with some huge names, household names – what advice can you give to younger artists, designers or collectors even as they embark on their own creative or collecting journeys?
KJ: I would always say, buy for yourself. Don't buy to make money. If you're starting out as an artist or designer, go for it. Have your own style. Take calculated risks, though don’t jump in all at once, because you don’t want to start without the means to move forward. To be creative it doesn’t always take a lot of money. You don't need lots of money to paint. You don't need lots of money to make clothes. Find things, recycle things, go and look at everything. If you love an artist, go and see who they're connected to and look at what they do to get inspired. Same with a designer. Go for it. Be brave.