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Paris Fashion Week: Kim Jones unpacks his bags at Louis Vuitton

June 24, 2011 |  4:34 pm

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Kim Jones' first collection as head of the men's design studio for Louis Vuitton (he replaced Paul Helbers, and works with Marc Jacobs, the label's creative director) not only referenced the storied brand's heritage, but the designer's as well.

The backdrop was constructed to look like a gargantuan stack of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks, and as the models walked out between them, it created a feeling that the collection was essentially unpacking itself.

The set not only symbolized the label's deep roots in the luxe luggage business -- and the travel theme Jones often explored while helming the Alfred Dunhill brand -- but that the spring and summer 2012 collection would be emphasizing it as well.

And what a collection it was.

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Inspired by the life of artist Peter Beard (a renowned photographer of East Africa and its fauna, whom Jones -- who grew up in Africa -- refers to as a hero of his in the show notes), it managed to do a fair bit of traveling itself -- from the Ivy League college campus that inspired preppy navy blue blazers and striped club ties to the wilds of Africa, which allowed for khaki-colored explorer gear and tribal-inspired designs, and jet-setting one more time to the big city, where the penthouse in the sky comes with silk pinstripe pajamas by day and ultra-luxe dinner jackets and ties gleaming with precious metals by night.

Hardly novel as archetypes go, (including at Vuitton, where African royalty inspired the fall 2009 runway collection), but it's the small twists and subtle details beyond the familiar silhouettes that make the collection worthy of the Louis Vuitton label (which this season includes a red and blue globe logo designed for the 1935 World Expo that Jones pulled from the archives).

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In the collegiate/preppy part of the collection, that meant striped shirting fabric linings in blazers, T-shirts and gym shorts with the gray marl of standard-issue sweatsuits but done in a cashmere/silk blend and stadium jackets with metal snap buttons redesigned so the interior of the snap -- the part of the closure visible when the jacket is unbuttoned, has the same clean, polished and handsome look as the top of the snap.

The safari segment included a couple different takes on the House's checkerboard Damier print -- including a short-sleeve raffia shirt (raffia's been so popular on the runways of Milan and Paris this season, I wonder if there will be a shred of the fiber left come next spring), and shirts given an African tribal vibe.

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One of the collection's standouts -- and far from subtle -- was a striking red and blue Masai-inspired design that appeared in tartans, checks and the Damier design on a range of scarves, blankets, shorts and T-shirts.

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The delight was in the details for the more formal offerings as well; silk pajama shirts and trousers, shawl-collared tuxedo jackets with a jacquard weave of a barely perceptible LV logo, and the height of understated luxury -- a navy blue necktie shot through with strands of 24-karat gold thread.

If what Jones pulled out of those Louis Vuitton steamer trunks on Thursday is any indication, he won't need to worry about repacking his bags any time soon.

-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from Paris

RELATED:

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Photos: Looks from the Louis Vuitton spring / summer 2012 runway collection shown during Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Louis Vuitton.

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