Few people know that Francis Bacon’s first painting was a rug. At the end of the 1920s, the artist worked in Paris as an interior decorator, a stint he would later downplay. “Perhaps painting was not a turn away from the interior, but a way of taking built space into a place it could not go in real life,” wrote Rebecca Daniels of Bacon’s career change in 032c Issue #35. In Kim Jones’ living room, a large modernist carpet (c. 1930) by Bacon, depicting architectural elements, hangs on the wall just as a painting would.
The smooth concrete and polished stainless-steel interiors of Kim Jones’ new home are immaculate. Hidden at the center of a West London block, the vast spaces are filled with some of humanity’s most precious artifacts. As I stare down at the pool, I notice its deep blue surface is undisturbed by even a single ripple. This home is half Bond lair, half Children of Men ark.
I began by asking Jones to describe where we were:
Text: Jack Self
This is a house designed by Gianni Botsford Architects, and built in 2006. It’s really quite fucking major. I never thought I would live somewhere like this. When I decided to move, I began by looking for a period property with character and good features. This place was my real estate agent’s “wildcard” viewing. I saw it and completely fell in love. I’ve only really lived here for four months, so it still feels very new. I’ve been mainly concentrating on organising my library, and I haven’t even started with my archive.
Do you spend a lot of time at home?
When I’m in London I do. I’m a homebody. For the last nine years I’ve been living in two places, so it’s nice to get everything in one place. I gave up my place in Paris because I wanted to live in a hotel when I’m there. In London, I wanted to be more grounded. I had quite a nomadic childhood, so to be in one place where everything is together and peaceful – that is good for me.
A nomadic upbringing must have changed your relationship with objects. In my case, it made me disinterested in ownership. But you seem to have gone the other way. You’ve shown me a lot of “complete” collections of objects: full sets of books, complete streetwear collections, vinyl record back catalogues, even Star Wars figurines. What is the meaning of collecting, and is the idea of completeness important?
My whole family have always been collectors. Particularly my father, who was a geologist. He amassed a huge collection of material from all over the world. I have quite a lot of natural and geological objects in my house actually, and I am very concerned about preservation of the environment and biodiversity. People always say that’s hypocritical, given what I do, but I don’t think it is. I simply feel that protecting animals and rare species is a responsibility, and it is part of who I am.
I’m not here to grill you on hypocrisy. The general public today seems to demand an impossible purity from public figures, and the press often want to erase inconsistencies. But individuals are filled with contradictions. Do you form very strong emotional relationships with the objects in your home?
There are some pieces I love, but I also frequently edit.
Are you using the language of fashion to talk about domestic objects? When you say “pieces” and “edit,” you mean acquisition and removal?
I’m talking about how objects enter my field of vision, and how they behave in the world. I am not nostalgic. If someone comes into my house and sees an object they really love, I will frequently give it away. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to some of the really expensive things here. But when it comes to clothing, if it looks better on someone else, they should have it. I’m not precious about stuff, about daily objects. I quite often swap objects with friends: plates, pictures, bits and pieces. My home is constantly evolving. It’s a fluid arrangement of objects. Letting go of an object is about letting it have an active role in the world. I don’t want things to be static or preserved.
Is how strongly you feel about the object connected to how much attention you’ve given to its arrival in your space?
I do buy things sometimes and think, “why did I get that?” Then one of my assistants will like it, or an intern, and I’ll let them take it home. Because if it was important to me I would have concentrated more in the beginning. It’s a cliché to say it, but I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. I am very fast at making that decision. So if I end up with an object without having considered whether I need it, I know that it’s because I don’t. That makes it easy to let go.
I put a lot of consideration into this house. It took me quite a while to find somewhere I wanted to buy. The first one I wanted to get was very different, it was a late-Victorian villa in Little Venice [West London]. I started collecting for that. Then I saw this one, and I was like “oh my god, I didn’t even know you could get a house like this in London.” I’ve always fantasized about living in Los Angeles, and having a house in a style like this – I didn’t realize it could be done. Many people think living in concrete is very cold, but I don’t agree.
Have you seen Juergen’s studio by 6a, just down the road? It is all concrete, but I think the architects did an amazing job of making it feel warm.
No, I haven’t! We keep texting each other. Juergen wants to come over here because I’ve got a pool and he wants to use it, so we’re talking about a housewarming. But getting an interior right with concrete isn’t just about the material. The scale of this house is large: it’s 800 square metres. The rooms are big, so they can easily look empty. I wouldn’t say I’ve finished this interior at all. In the living room I think I want to design a rug rather than buy one. It’s a process, and I have no need to rush it.
Many people want to live in readymade or already finished interiors. I see them on Instagram all the time, as if the aspiration is to be thoroughly typical. They have uncanny qualities, a bit like hotels.
I’m suspicious of people who don’t accept their homes as open processes. An interior has to evolve. I have hung art, but that doesn’t mean these works will stay where they are or even in the house. There is maybe one exception, and that’s the library and the study. Books need to be in a more or less fixed position. These two rooms are next to each other and are the ones I like to be in the most, where I do most of my thinking and research. Libraries need to be in order, otherwise they lose their function for memory. I can visualize the placement of all my books, and instruct someone to find exactly the right volume over the phone. I even remember where to find a specific reference in a particular book. In my mind, I can see that it’s on the lower left page, halfway through, for example. Libraries let you create visual connections between ideas. But if a library is like a memory palace, you can’t easily reorder its parts.
A screen depicting a Provençale valley, was painted by Omega Workshops design group founder Roger Fry. The object once belonged to author Evelyn Waugh, who refers to it in Brideshead Revisited: the screen decorates the college room of the book’s naive protagonist, Charles Ryder, upon his arrival in Oxford.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve been reading and rereading a lot of Virginia Woolf. Of course, once I find a new work, I quickly get obsessed, so now I am hunting for first editions, inscribed and signed copies, and so on. I bought quite a lot of Jack Kerouac’s personal collection recently. I’m interested in where people’s ideas came from, so I like to read around their work. I wanted to know what Kerouac knew.
Do you keep your own work mixed in with your library?
No, they are completely separate. I do refer to my own work, but not in the context of a library. I don’t like to look backwards. I might consider some of the early work done for my own brand, which Dior is quite close to in some ways, but I mostly feel the need to keep moving on. I guess that’s why I like fashion: it is relentless.
If you look at someone like Matthew Williams, I like the fact that his work evolves, but has a certain level of consistency. In this day and age, a customer wants difference. You have to have a core. But you also have to have something exciting and new. I’m not scared of risk. For example, our next show in Miami is very different from last one we did in Paris. It will be quite full on, and it will surprise people. But Christian Dior was a risk taker, and radical.
You do take a lot of risks, but you are also extremely commercially successful. That suggests a deeply calculated approach. How do you balance making a clear and fresh proposition with market demand?
I like facts and figures, and I follow how products perform very closely. I also think, “how can we consistently produce the opposite of what is expected or predictable?” I always want to flip things around. That’s increasingly hard these days, because as a strategy it’s kind of been done. But then, everything has already been done. That is the challenge. When you have the core of what Dior is, you can play around with it a lot to produce new and unexpected relationships. For example, womenswear from the 1950s is relevant to menswear now.
You said everything has already been done. But what you’re describing is that fashion is about reinventing the existing. Often that is just by changing context, which changes meaning. I can’t help but think of Matthew Williams’ buckle for Alyx as an example: it is standardized, industrial hardware. First, he recontextualized the buckle into his own brand, and then it was remade entirely for Dior.
I’m surrounded by people who think this way. I’ve got Virgil [Abloh], Matt [Williams], and Yoon [Ambush] – a whole gang of people I’ve grown up with. Matt is perhaps the youngest of the gang. I remember when he was starting his brand, he had just three things: a sequin off a shoe from the Ukraine, a mountaineer’s buckle, and a small swatch of fabric. He had these three tiny elements and grew everything from that. He has become one of the really important younger designers today, but he hasn’t wanted to explode at a breakneck speed. His rise has been controlled and focused on creating something meaningful.
I worked with Matt on Alyx for a while, and you’re right that he was very conscious about stable growth and avoiding hype fatigue. I think he is very dedicated to longevity.
He is building a brand that he wants for him and his family. I had my own brand, and I ran it for eight years. I enjoyed doing it, but I wanted to work for a big house. I wanted to have the pillars: the archives, the budgets, the staff, the ability to delegate. Of course, I stay very much on top of the whole company and its activities, but there is a CEO, there are communications and marketing teams, working together.
“Like light itself, the house is all but invisible,” wrote The Guardian of the house when it was finished in 2005, noting that despite its mass of solid concrete, steel, aluminum, and glass, the building is hidden from the casual passerby. “Behind the screen, though, Botsford’s house of light is a thing of architectural sorcery made possible not by sleight of hands or smoke and mirrors, but by patiently applied science.”
Jones was originally in the market for a cute Victorian, but his real estate agent showed him this property anyway.
Neighbor Juergen Teller would like to come over for a dip, but Jones is the only person who swims in this pool. It reminds him of the one Adolf Loos designed for Josephine Baker.
How do you avoid being trapped by requests from Dior merchandisers, whose job is to make sure that any successful item becomes locked into your production cycle?
Generally speaking, the more creative things we do on the more commercial collections tend to sell more than any requests. To do this, you have to know what people are going to want to buy six months in advance. It’s kind of like, you have to get the feel of what people want.
How do you get that feel?
It’s looking. It’s listening. It’s being everywhere, talking to people. Listening is a big part of my job. Especially if we get young kids coming into the studio for work experience, like 16 or 17 year-olds. They have a different perspective from a 21 year-old.
You mentioned once before that you had fought against unpaid internships. You said you don’t believe in exploitative work. That shows a lot of care and respect for different points of view.
I am interested in making people who work with me feel like their opinion is important and shaping our work. When we’re looking at a final set of looks for a show, I’ll ask an intern what they think or how they would have done it differently. I frequently hand over the music in the studio to other people so we’re not always listening to one person’s playlists. I’m trying to say that I think a lot about how to do things differently, and how to expand my worldview. Traveling for me is also very important.
I want to ask you about the importance of formal training. Originally, Virgil is an architect, Kanye is a musician, Yoon is a graphic designer, and Matt is a professionally lovely man. You’re the only one who is professionally trained as a fashion designer. Is that significant?
Don’t forget, Virgil and Kanye absorbed absolutely everything. In some ways the modes of design are universal. If you can understand the architectural or graphic problems of fashion, you’ll understand a lot of the structure and pattern of making clothes, of how things are put together. People are often dismissive of those who haven’t had a formal training, but they come with an entirely new point of view. You know, Raf wasn’t formally trained, was he? He was trained as an architect? Sometimes when we’re looking at a toile, I’ll ask something and get the response that “it can’t be done.” I will then give the problem to someone who hasn’t been through their full training, and they will come back with a solution. Because they don’t know that it “can’t be done,” they keep an open mind. I always say there’s no such word as “no.”
You seem to give a lot of freedom and foregrounding to your collaborators.
That’s the modern way to do stuff. When I knew I was going to Dior, the first thing I thought about was the saddle bag. I realized I couldn’t do an exact copy – I wanted to do it differently. Matt’s buckle was the perfect way to make it graphic and alive and “now.” Rather than copy or rip off someone else’s work, I wanted to share the stage. I asked him if he could do design for Dior as MMW. I wanted different cultural voices around me, because that is how you make work that is richer and more inclusive. Matt is from Venice Beach via New York. Yoon is Korean via Seattle and Tokyo. I’m English but have lived all around the world. The aim is to create a scope that is unlike that of any other house.
In previous generations, there has been an adversarial relationship between designers. They are first and foremost competitors. Your approach is generous by comparison. You give people space and time to experiment. You’ve said your collaborators have special qualities – how did you spot them?
Just by being friends with them for so long. We’ve spoken about how to work together for so many years, waiting for the opportunity. The CEO at Dior knows me, and he knows what I need to do my best work, so when I wanted to expand our team and bring other designers to the foreground, that was supported.
It must be satisfying to have that type of agency, to realize what you can imagine.
Yes, but I don’t go in just demanding stuff for the sake of it. I am precise in that sense. I have known other designers who start new jobs by asking for a lot, in the hope that they will get 50 percent, which is what they actually need. I’m not like that. Actually, I shouldn’t compare my approach to other designers. I don’t really know how other people approach the question of resources. Lee McQueen, for example, was such a close friend – and he was a true, true artist. He had a totally different way of thinking of fashion as more than a business.
I want to ask you about the importance of privacy. Is your home a sanctuary or a place for community?
I have my gang – we’re a unit. I have a mix of people that come to stay with me, because if they are visiting London they prefer to feel at home with me rather than be in a hotel. That said, if I need privacy, I have privacy. I do like to be on my own, and I don’t need to be surrounded by others. Quite often you’re with so many people all the time and you’re like, “fuck it, I just want to watch TV in bed with the dogs.” What’s good about this house is that you can be on your own here even with guests because it’s so big.
Do you smoke, and if so, do you smoke indoors? I’m interested in subversive acts in domestic space, in how social norms in the home change very rapidly. Even fifteen years ago it was common to smoke indoors in London. Now, I don’t know anyone here who still does.
No. No one smokes indoors, except Kate [Moss]. She’s the only person I let smoke in my house. My mum smoked, and I hated the smell. That’s why I don’t let anyone smoke in my house. Shall I show you around?
In the bedroom, male figures by British painter Keith Vaughan, and a landline telephone.
“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we them,” wrote Virginia Woolf in Orlando. “We may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.” A Dior cardholder accessorizes with a neoclassical bust, and a Dior belt wears Kim Jones.
This is some of Alex Foxton’s work. He works with me doing tailoring, but he’s an exceptional painter. I asked him to do all the prints for our Spring pre-collection.
This is a photograph of a piano by Hugo Scott, who is a really old friend of mine. He does candid backstage shots. Everyone knows him and likes him, so celebrities don’t freak out when he’s taking their picture.
This is a gift from Ryan McGinley. It’s a photo of one of Harvey Milk’s afterschool voguing classes – because Ryan knows how much I love voguing.
This is one of Keith Haring’s shopping lists.
This is Leonard Woolf’s copies of Virginia Woolf’s Common Reader.
This is Jack Keraouac’s copy of Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.
This is a first edition of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. I feel really privileged to have this book. Evolution is an important factor for people to remember. Things are always changing. For me, my relationship with nature at the moment is: global warming is really critical, but it’s not just climate change, it’s loss of biodiversity. We don’t want to be the ones who everyone hates in the future because we fucked up. In conservation, I work on smaller projects where I can be more involved. I don’t talk about specifics too much, but I would just highlight one:
This is a book about the Vietnamese douc langur. I’ve been working with a charity to preserve the douc langur, and that means developing strategies to prevent their habitat from being erased – so perhaps using sensitive and limited ecotourism focused on the douc langur, rather than industry or clearing land. It means public education to prevent people hunting the douc langur for their meat. And although it is a small programme, we have made a real difference, with a rising and stable population.
This is a self-portrait by Frank Sinatra. After he broke up with Ava Gardner he was devastated, so his therapist asked him to try painting. I love how simple and kind of ridiculous it is.
This is a safe containing an inscribed copy of a first edition.
This is a book by the guy who ran Studio 54.
This is a book called The Very Rich: A History of Wealth.
This is a complete back set of i-D magazines.
This is an incredibly rare complete set of Hanuman Books. These little titles were published out of the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. There are perhaps just three complete sets in the world.
This is the complete set of original Star Wars figurines.
I’m an elitist. I like the sense of having all parts of a work.
This is a DHL box.
This is some packaging.
This is a dining room table.
Jones’ GQ fashion awards are starting to pile up.
A ten-meter-high sculpture by KAWS dominated the Dior Summer 2019 menswear show, Jones’ runway debut with the label. The collaboration also yielded plush toys and collection accessories, and Jones announced that he would continue the model, with each Dior Men collection featuring contributions by contemporary artists.
I don’t know what to do with this space. I was thinking maybe to turn it into an indoor plant room. I used to keep a collection of carnivorous plants as a child.
This is a table from Yves Saint Laurent’s house in Marrakech.
This door is very heavy. I have to keep it closed because the dogs might wee in here. They sometimes don’t know whether they are indoors or outdoors in this house.
This is a set of Egyptian funerary caskets.
They’re good, aren’t they? It’s mind-blowing how old they are.
This is the pool. It reminds me of the pool designed by Adolf Loos for Josephine Baker. You can see into it from the gym. It’s bigger than it looks. I swim every morning – it clears my mind. I’m the only person who swims in the pool.
This is Duncan Grant.
This is Duncan Grant.
This is Francis Bacon.
This is Duncan Grant.
This is some of my archive.
I have my own cataloguing system. But these [dozen racks] are just a small part that need to go into the underground cold storage.
This is a wall of shoes, including my complete archive of Air Jordans.
Everyone freaks out when they see me in these because there are only two pairs in the world. I wear all of them. These are Hiroshi Fujiwara Nikes. Lots of people stop me to take pictures of my shoes.
This is a Roger Fry.
This is a folding screen that Evelyn Waugh mentions at the start of Brideshead Revisited.
This is Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.
This is a drawing from Diana Vreeland’s bedroom.
This is a Magritte.
This is from Derek Jarman.
This is a Raymond Pettibon.
This is a mini Rimowa.
This is my solid, stainless-steel bath. It’s quite serial killer, but in a good way.
This is one of Picasso’s shirts: linen from the south of France, with painted faces.
This is my other, day-to-day bath and shower. I prefer it to the other one.
This is my wardrobe.
This is an LG television.
I watch a lot of shit TV.
Happily, Jones is a dog person.
Pictured here from left to right are 032c cover stars Dexter and Lulu, both six- year-old miniature pinschers, and Cookie, a one-year-old mini Pomeranian.