It is fitting, then, that his first collaborative collection with Nike – released in two instalments earlier this year – pivots around the idea of mobility. The NikeLab x Kim Jones collection prioritises lightweight materials. Influenced by the idea of athletes travelling across the world on the occasion of the Rio Olympics, the Windrunner jackets that feature in the collection were designed to be seamlessly folded into a tiny pouch for ease of transport.
Jones received his MA Fashion from Central St Martins and presented his first collection in 2003 at London Fashion Week. Five years later, he took up the role of creative director at British luxury brand Alfred Dunhill. He joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, where he now serves as the label’s artistic director for men’s prêt-a-porter. Voted Menswear Designer of the Year at both 2006 and 2009 British Fashion Awards, Jones has collaborated with brands ranging from haut couture houses to high-street labels. The Nike collaboration marked his first sportswear project in eight years.
How was the concept for the collection initiated?
It started off with a conversation about travel, because that’s something I do a lot. What would the Olympic athletes need to make travel convenient and comfortable? To make that stressful journey as easy as possible? We worked with Nike’s latest technology and manufacturing techniques to make really lightweight and modern garments. Garments that would make it as easy as possible for these people to go and do very stressful things.
Tell me about the design process. Was it particularly high-tech?
I had some meetings with Nike and I looked at what they were doing. My ideas were already in place, and it was just a case of working out how to make garments out of it; how to bring the existing pieces into the 21st century. It was really interesting project to work on because I haven’t worked in sportswear since 2009, which is really quite a long time.
The Windrunner's design is technical, made from one piece of fabric. How did you work out the design?
It started out as a piece of paper. I had nine Post-It notes stuck together which I photocopied and then worked on it like origami, working out how you could minimise the number of seams and how to make it as packable as possible. So you’re looking at a flat drawing, a flat piece of paper and a flat garment. And then you start by deleting this seam, deleting that seam.
You were trying to rid the design of any unnecessary bulk. Did you try to get volume into the design by other means?
Not so much. I wasn’t trying to make a jacket of different proportions, I just wanted to make it in a very different way. It’s a subtle change, but I like the pureness of the Windrunner. Nike’s response to it was really positive, and they were really excited to be able to bring it forward technically.
Your sneaker, the NikeLab Air Zoom LWP x Kim Jones, is a hybrid between the Zoom 95 and the Air Max 1. Did you have in mind which sneaker designs you wanted to work with, or was it suggested by Nike?
I dug the Air Zoom out from my collection of sneakers and took them to show Nike. They were the best lightweight performance shoe, but underrated at the time. We went through quite a number of different styles and prototypes. The guy that I was working with is someone that I have worked with before, so he understood immediately what I wanted to do. The process began with things that I appreciated: I took them to Nike to make them new.
Do the sneakers contain any new technology?
It’s got new things, but it’s just what Nike is currently working on: the performance, the tooling, and the technology. I haven’t worked in sportswear since 2008 so coming back to it, I could see that it had changed immensely in terms of how things are made. Returning to sportswear, you can see how much the technology has advanced in eight years.
More than ever before there’s a confluence between street and sport fashion, will you be using any of this technology in any of your own future collections?
It’s hard to do that because it’s a skillset that is thoroughly Nike’s. There’s elements I will use in my existing collections but I will never replicate entirely. When I work with a company, I’m working for that company and what they do best is to make products which are ultimately fitting with their DNA. I felt that what I was doing with NikeLab was true to the brand, but my own perspective on design is also evident. I didn’t want to do something that was very crazy or avant-garde, I wanted it to be very pure because I was thinking about what people that really love the brand would be interested in.
Do you consider them unisex? Do the designs differ greatly between the sexes?
No. Completely unisex. I wanted it to be for both men and women. I wanted to have something that everyone could enjoy.