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Hell awaits: Kim Jones vs Jake Chapman

A journey into hell with the menswear maestro and the art troublemaker

In the lead-up to Halloween, Dazed Digital is running a Dark Arts season inspired by our November Dark Arts issue. Among other things, we've walked the path of darkness via the Hollywood Walk of Death and talked to Don Mancini, the creator of Chucky. Check back on our Dark Arts section for a journey to hell and back. 

Kim Jones is getting ready to celebrate his birthday. Somewhere inside the Louis Vuitton apartment on Bond Street, the final touches are being made to his birthday cake, a large demonic snow leopard that looks like it’s been dragged to hell and back twice over. The loving creation of the Chapman brothers, the artists who defaced Hitler’s watercolour paintings and drew zombies over original Goya prints, it’s an appropriate offering for the man responsible for bringing a new sense of humour and fresh attitude to Louis Vuitton’s menswear in his role as style director. Upstairs in the apartment, Jake Chapman is catching up with the man of the hour, who has spent the last month in Bali, Toyko and Beijing, catching up with Kate Moss and Kanye West along the way. It’s like watching two mischievous teenagers gossiping after the school summer holidays, only in a multimillion-pound fitting room. 

The Chapmans brought their dark, horror-fuelled world to Louis Vuitton’s Paris runway earlier this year, when they were invited by Jones to collaborate on his AW13 menswear collection, which they dubbed Garden of Hell. Although the house has long-standing ties with the art world – previous collaborators include Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama and Stephen Sprouse, to name but a few – the daring result marked a triumphant first for Vuitton menswear. Re-working grotesque characters from two of their children’s books (My Giant Colouring Book and Bedtime Tales for Sleepless Nights), the Chapmans printed butchered teddy bears on velvet slippers and Siamese zombie owls on silk dinner jackets. It’s possibly fashion’s darkest and most twisted fairy tale to date.

So how did you two actually first meet? 

Jake Chapman: Ooh, that in itself is a dark question and entails a murky answer. The thing is, we have a mutual group of friends, and it always starts very civilised and ends...

Kim Jones: a crumpled heap! It’s the group events – like Kate’s wedding. They’re the things that keep us young because we almost turn back into children.

JC: The drift into incoherence...

KJ: The highlight of going to Kate’s wedding was seeing Kerry Katona at the petrol station on our way there. She’s always hanging out at service stations and then ends up on the cover of Heat

Kim, would you like to spend your birthday in the Garden of Hell? 

KJ: Oh, that could be quite fun...

JC: I read this really interesting thing where someone tried to calculate the number of people who have gone to heaven and those who have gone to hell. You know what? Hell would have to be so big and so ridiculously overpopulated that heaven and hell would just become the same thing. I mean, imagine finding yourself in heaven with a load of grinning Christians? I’d take hell any time.

KJ: I think most of my friends would probably go to hell! Well, considering how strict the parameters are, so would 95 per cent of the population. 

“If the concept of hell is the place where you go to get tortured, then what happens if the people who love to be tortured go to hell? That’s heaven for them” – Jake Chapman

JC: If the concept of hell is the place where you go to get tortured, then what happens if the people who love to be tortured go to hell? That’s heaven for them. 

KJ: We were talking about purgatory – I was stuck on a flight on this really small plane and it was on the runway for about six hours waiting to take off. It was so hot that we thought, ‘Well, this must be purgatory then.’

JC: Sorry, has anyone noticed this music?

Is it special birthday music? 

KJ: It’s ‘Sea Hunt’ by Patrick Cowley. It’s something we use as a warm-up for our shows. It’s when Alister Mackie gets all bohemian – you know, a glass of champagne and a Radox bath! 

Jake, I read that you were in the process of directing a feature-length horror film. Is that true?

JC: Yes, but the film industry takes so long to do anything – it’s basically like the civil service. It will probably be one of those annoying art films. No, it won’t be an art film – it will be really good. I mean, it’s not going to make any money but it will be really good. 

Are you both big horror film fans? 

KJ: Yeah, I like them, but I only want to watch them with people who get terrified. I’m more interested in watching their fear than the film.

JC: You know there are sites on the net where it’s just films of people watching things – it’s quite funny. 

KJ: Space Ghetto, have you seen that? It goes from real horror to cute kittens. You’d probably quite like it. 

That’s the weird thing with horror, there’s so much secret enjoyment in the grotesque and the vulgar. 

KJ: Well, it’s just like going on a rollercoaster with someone who is terrified of heights. I love going on Space Mountain. It’s completely pitch black, you don’t know what’s going to happen and the only sound you can hear is screaming. 

JC: I’ve never been on a rollercoaster. 

KJ: Oh my God, it’s amazing. It’s all about the Tower of Terror at Disneyland – not knowing what to expect and then seeing everyone’s faces. 

“I love the idea of these scary, cute animals really freaking someone out, but actually a kid going up to it would laugh” – Kim Jones

Kim, do you have a favourite Chapman artwork? 

KJ: The McDonald’s African tribe thing, because I grew up in Africa. That was one of the things that really hit a strong chord with me. 

JC: You know what, they are on display at the Tate Britain and Dinos said some French students walked past it and said, ‘Urgh, African shit.’

KJ: What did you call it? 

JC: ‘McJesus Christ’.

How did the collaboration come about? 

KJ: I’m not really a planner. I’ve never planned things. I just do stuff. I’ve always wanted to work with Jake and Dinos, and the timing just felt really right. 

JC: It’s been a nice working relationship. We’d get on the Eurostar to meet Kim in Paris and come back with the hangover from hell. There’s that joke where the rabbi chucks himself off the Empire State Building and as he goes past each window he says: ‘So far, so good.’ It’s that brilliant pessimistic optimism – you’re so close to death but it’s still alright. There’s no guarantee anything will last but you’ve bought the ticket and you’ve taken the ride. 

There’s an interesting paradox between extreme luxury and the sinister children’s books that inspired the prints.

KJ: Yes! I love the idea of those scary, cute animals you make that can really freak someone out but actually, a kid going up to it would laugh so it’s got that sort of appeal. Kids are really fearless. 

JC: Kids are fearless but also they don’t have their moral parameters set out. People say the same thing about some of our more sexualised work; you know, ‘What if a child looked at it?’ But children don’t see the same thing. Kids have the right view in relation to our work because they stand and point and laugh. Which is really what it should be. It’s only adults who have over-melodramatic responses to things because they feel obliged to demonstrate some kind of social etiquette: to be disgusted or appalled, to be upset. 

KJ: I’ve got two families, one in the cellar and one upstairs...

JC: You know what you should do? Come and make some art with us.

KJ: I’ve got lots of ideas. There’s one technique that I’d love to do.

JC: Mud wrestling? 

Let’s talk about your Instagram obsessions.

JC: Kim, your Instagram is a magical mystery to me...

KJ: I know. I like surprising people. I mean, I like how you can just put a picture up and it’s not braggy. 

JC: Ha! What do you mean, ‘braggy’? Your Instagram is as braggy as it could get. 

KJ: Fuck off! I like my friends to know where I am. Actually, it’s quite funny looking at some of the reactions on Instagram from some of the normal Vuitton consumers. Someone said: ‘We looked at their art and it’s so shocking.’ Well, it’s not really because if you read into it, it’s got a message that everyone agrees with. 

“Twitter’s brilliant. You can say rude things to the Dalai Lama and get a torrent of absolute anti-Buddhist abuse thrown back at you. It’s another wormhole into a whole new set of people to annoy” – Jake Chapman 

JC: I only joined Instagram because Dinos said he could get more followers than me. I actually prefer Twitter – the fact that you can say rude things to the Dalai Lama and then, with the time difference, as soon as America wakes up you get a torrent of absolute anti-Buddhist abuse thrown back at you. It’s brilliant. Then you can interact with these people and tell them that they are going to be reincarnated as a maggot’s penis. It’s another wormhole into a whole new set of people to annoy. ‘Dalai Lama you’re fucking boring’ and things like that! 

Kim, you always seem to be travelling...

KJ: I just want to see most of the world before I die and I find going to different places the most inspirational thing. I went to Bhutan because it’s still a hundred years behind the rest of the world and I’m really interested in how it functions. I went to New Zealand to see this really rare parrot because it’s the only place in the world where you can see it. 
You’d like the way it looks because it looks like one of your drawings. I mean, I’ve travelled all my life. It never stops really and it’s amazing to have the freedom to do that. 

JC: I get homesick; I’m small-minded like that. I like going on the plane, I just don’t like getting off at the other end. 

Final question. On your deathbed, what would you choose as the last work of art to ever lay your eyes on? 

JC: A Richard Serra sculpture. I’d like to make it instrumental in my death – there is no point looking at something nice the moment you’re about to die. If it tipped over and squashed you that might be quite good. Actually, I think one of his assistants was squished under one of his massive steel works...

KJ: Squishing is a horrible way to die. 

JC: Can you imagine? Have you ever been in a car crash? I’ve been in one – things move really slowly and really quickly simultaneously. Your brain is calculating the circumstances in triple time. So imagine a Richard Serra tipping over on you... You’d hear your nose break before you die. Actually, I always think about being in a plane crash. I always sit there in one of those first-class pods and think, ‘The subject of my luxury is going to be the very thing that kills me. As I’m propelling to the ground, this lovely pod I’m sitting in is going to become...’

KJ: ...your tomb. It’s always the front of the plane that crashes first. The thing I like about Singapore Airlines is that if you’re business class they put you in the back of the plane! At least you have a better chance of surviving.

JC: The fear is that your brain suddenly speeds up because you’re anticipating this terrible event. You’re neurologically processing things at such a rate, so your death – even in something really quick – will be really glacial. The little tray where you’ve put your glass of vodka tonic is actually going to be the thing that kills you. 

KJ: What scares me is that if they drop the pressure in the cabin, your eardrums burst. Imagine the agony of that!

JC: I was on a plane once and all of a sudden the oxygen things came down and everyone was just sitting there thinking, ‘Are we dying?’ Even if we were dying, no one would know what to do. We would all just sit there doing our own thing because humans are just so inefficient. 

Taken from the November 2013 issue of Dazed & Confused