The era of Zoom has almost counter-intuitively provided us with rare moments of intimacy. For example, even though I’m in London and Kim Jones is in Paris, when I connect with the designer two days before his first Fendi couture show in late January this year, he’s not sequestered in a press room but in the middle of a fitting with Christy Turlington and her nephew James. Actually, at the precise moment I catch him, he’s eating his lunch.
For Jones, time right now has to be snatched where it can be. Between overseeing the menswear collections for Dior in Paris and designing womenswear collections for Fendi in Rome, he has been working constantly, perpetually in transit between the two cities.
Jones made his Fendi debut during the spring 2021 Couture Week in January. With that collection, he checked off a couple of significant firsts: his first couture collection and his first-ever womenswear collection. There was also a consequential second: Jones is only the second outside designer to serve as artistic director in Fendi’s history after the late, great Karl Lagerfeld, whose tenure at Fendi stretched an astounding 54 years, until his death in 2019. (Silvia Venturini Fendi was the House’s sole artistic director in 2019 and 2020.)
Prior to our conversation, the 41-year-old Jones texted me a video of Turlington and James in suits with swirling, exaggerated trains of taffeta patterned to evoke Carrara marble. The inspiration, he said, was Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel of a century-hopping and gender-swapping poet inspired by her lover, author Vita Sackville-West.
“We’re talking on Virginia Woolf’s birthday,” Jones tells me. He is obsessed with Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, the loose association of early 20th‘century British intellectuals and artists whose bohemian lifestyles and febrile creativity have been manna to fashion for decades. Jones mentions that he was a teenager when he first visited Charleston, the country home of Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell, and her partner, Duncan Grant. He still has the brochure, which sits in the expansive library that houses his collection of roughly 20,000 books and is filled with first editions from the group. He has multiple copies of Orlando, including one previously owned by playwright Noël Coward. Jones also has Sackville‘West’s copy, which is specially bound and bears her initials stamped in gold.
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