#exclusive: Hennessy collaborates with Kim Jones on sneakers and spirits

British designer Kim Jones has brought his unique vision to French cognac producer Hennessy with a three-piece collaboration that includes a pair of trainers. He explains to Zaneta Cheng why fashion and spirits are natural bedfellows

Just so we’re clear, Kim Jones doesn’t drink. He’s allergic to alcohol but this didn’t stop the designer when Hennessy approached him for a collaboration. Dubbed Hennessy X.O x Kim Jones, the three-piece collection grew out of Jones’s interest in product design and comprises a bottle, decanter and a pair of monochrome trainers.

It’s the first time Hennessy has invited a fashion designer to recreate a bottle, following collaborations with architects Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind as well as industrial designer Marc Newson. It’s also the first time that any designer has created a pair of trainers for the drinks brand. Approaching the collaboration much like he would a collection at Dior or Fendi, Jones went through the Hennessy archives looking for elements from the past to reinterpret for the now with his unique take.

This is the first time that Hennessy has collaborated with a fashion designer and also the first time for Hennessy to produce a trainer. Can you tell us a bit more about how this collaboration came to be?

It was a conversation where they approached me about doing something. I liked all the collaborations I’ve done before with different people and some of them have been my friends. I wanted to bring something new and unexpected, hence the sneaker because I’m a fashion designer and people do buy a lot of trainers so I thought it was the logical thing to do.

One of my first jobs, when I was at college, was working at a bar where people would always ask for Hennessy. I knew it was something that always intrigued me and I always had the idea of it being a very special product, so I looked at the core of the brand. The DNA is not that different to a couture house. I went through the process and I found myself particularly attracted to the late 19th and early 20th century and the way they wrapped the bottles. That’s where my idea came from for the Masterpiece decanter and the bottle. Because I come from a fashion background, we treated the bottle in a way where we’re wrapping it almost like it’s a dress or a garment.

You talk about your process. What is that exactly? How did you go about figuring out what Hennessy is and how to retain its identity while also carrying it forward and creating something new?

I look at the archive. Then I look at the products available now as well as the consumers they have today. I started looking at those three things and then I gauge it by sort of breaking them down, dividing them into sections. I think, will that look good? What would that be? I work like that and I do that with every single brand that I work with at the moment because it makes it clear in my head what it is.

Even if I might not have a specific idea of what the person looks like, I sort of know what their lifestyle will be. That’s why the trainer for me was the most relevant thing to do here, because a man might wear them out for dinner or he might wear them to work because people wear smart sneakers to work. So it was really something that I thought would be the most interesting thing to focus on. But they’re unisex as well. They’re not made just for men.

For me, they go well with tailored fabrics as well as denim and lots of different things. So it was really that, for me, cognac had to be the colour because you’re looking at the history of Hennessy. That’s been there since day one. And then to really focus on something that you can relax in and also feel smart in, and take it into an area which people wouldn’t expect. And, it’s an area which I work with all the time.

Did working at the bar when you were younger give this collaboration a more personal connection? Are there any stories you might be able to share from your own experience of having a cheeky Hennessy or two?

I’m actually allergic to quite a lot of alcohol so you know, for me, I was thinking very much in the product sense, which is something I find interesting. I really love the history of it and I love the idea of how the cognac is timeless, how it stays the same and has the same age-old tradition. Yet all the while the packaging changes and moves with the times. That for me, was interesting to see, especially in the archives. It’s funny. When you look at brands and go to the archives, there are times when they’re very chic and then there might be a time when it might be a bit horrible. You can see a lot of beautiful parts in the archive and how taste changes through time. That’s really what I look at.

What’s the moment in our time that you wanted to express through this collaboration?

It’s to give the customer something different to the other brands I work with, with a Hennessy spin. It’s a lifestyle that people like to live and they like products – objects of desire. And I think that’s really what I’ve worked with here, which is taking – because there are many artists who have worked with Hennessy before – it into the fashion moment. It was how to bring the uniqueness of Hennessy, embody everything I’ve seen in the archive and put it into a new piece in a modern way.

So it was more of an exercise in design and aesthetics.

Yeah, it was. It was looking at product design, which, for me, is quite new. I always like to do things that make you think in a different way because I’ve done quite a lot in fashion so new things for me are quite interesting to think about. I like to challenge myself and this was a challenge.

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In this Story: #art & design / #style / #fashion