In a Big Country
Photo credits: Scott halleran/Getty Images (Welcome to Marfa), Ralph
Mecke/Louis Vuitton Malletier (Kim Jones), courtesy of Kim Jones (Boots)
Dustin Lance Black: How did you end up picking Austin as the inspiration for your collection?
Kim Jones: I knew it had a great vintage scene, and I was thinking about an American road trip for a Vuitton collection, so we went all the way from New Orleans to Las Vegas, and [Austin] was the place that I really loved. There were great things to see and buy, and the food was good. It felt a bit like San Francisco — but in Texas. I met so many cool people in Austin, just going to stores and sitting in restaurants, and everyone was just, like, doing something, you know? They were doing art or making music and were really progressive.
Did you end up going to any of the food trucks?
I went to a Caribbean one, because I love jerk chicken.
I was there for three days a month or so ago. I brought the guy I was dating, an athlete, and by the end of the weekend, he and I had both gained five pounds. I’m really curious what designs spring from Austin.
When I think of travel, I think of the golden jet age of the ’50s and ’60s, when it was very glamorous to get on a plane. For us, there was a good vintage resource there. [We looked at] really authentic American things and doing twists on them. I call it “Vuittonizing” stuff, taking a bandana and making it into a Louis Vuitton bandana. Sort of a pop artsy way of working. We’d be taking photos or going shopping, looking at how things were made in that age and how we could bring that forward to make a luxurious product. We [also] went to Marfa, which is really incredible, but it felt very scary getting there, because we got lost. And then, when you get to the border police, you don’t get cell reception.
You’re in Paris now right?
Yeah. I work here and then I live in London and I have a place in both. I love Paris. It’s very quiet and calm. And in London, it’s about seeing things and seeing people. You can do so many things in a day. I love that you can walk. I love all the parks. I’m going to go to Portland in the next month for the first time, so I’m looking forward to seeing that.
It’s really beautiful. Gus Van Sant, who I did Milk with, has a place out there on a river and it’s just so incredibly peaceful.
I watched Milk a while ago, which I love — I was thinking about your thought process. Writing is something that I’m terrible at. I’m a designer. I’m much more visual in the way I think.
Well, I’m glad to hear that. I won’t be designing any clothes if you don’t take my writing job! Most of the things I do are based on something that’s going on. With Milk, it happened. I’m doing this ABC miniseries on the gay and lesbian movement from 1971 to July of last year. It means going to towns that feel like San Francisco might have back in the ’70s. I’m just kind of immersing myself in the world.
I taught a lot of students and I taught young designers: Don’t just do everything on the Internet. You have to see things for yourself — like, who is your customer going to be? What store would we like to sell to in the city? I don’t think we could achieve that by looking on the Internet.
If I rely on any [source] — not just the Internet, but any books on a certain subject — the work is derivative. It’s also boring. I mean, that’s the gift we have, right? We have our eyes and our brains and our hearts, and you better be filtering it through that.
No one sees the same thing as you do through your eyes. That’s the thing, isn’t it? Who has inspired you to do what you want to do? I fell into fashion by mistake.
I’ll answer... I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
I was 14 and had just come back from being in Africa, and my sister was older than me and leaving home and she left a stack of magazines by the door. I just picked them up and I was like, Oh my God, what is this lifestyle? I want to be a part of this. It was just an instant change for me. The Face magazine and i-D magazine. Youth culture is something that always inspires me. Austin felt like it had a really exciting and diverse youth scene.
It is one of the best. Thank goodness your sister left those magazines out.
I know. I thought I’d be a zoologist.
For me, it’s a combination of my mom and François Truffaut. My mom is paralyzed from polio. There is so much value in her, and people refuse to see it because she looks different. And one of the first films I ever saw was Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. I went to a video store, saw a cute boy on the cover, and the title was very exciting, so I smuggled it home and waited to be all alone. It was not the movie I thought it was, but it was the first film I ever saw that was about a family that was struggling with things that mine was struggling with. It made me feel less alone in the world for being different.
That’s so funny! When we were in Africa, my exploration was going outdoors, and that’s why I think everything is so visual — because I was always just looking at things and hunting lizards and snakes, because the only thing you could really do is catch as many animals in a day as possible, or keep drawing. I was quite a wild child. My uncle was a photographer who shot for National Geographic, and I always knew that was what I wanted to do — to travel and look around and be inspired.