Paris may have been the location for Thursday’s Louis Vuitton menswear show, but London was its inspiration. Kim Jones – men’s artistic director at the French luxury brand – stated that the show was a tribute to cult 1980s fashion designer Christopher Nemeth whose work he said “defined London”.
Meanwhile on the front row, more London cheerleading came in the form of Kate Moss. The fur coat-clad and sunkissed supermodel is not usually seen at the menswear shows but her appearance at the show signalled that she too was a fan of the late Nemeth and his circle of creatives who included the photographer Mark Lebon who rose to fame at the style magazines of the early to mid-80s. “Kate is here because she is part of the Nemeth family,” said Jones backstage as he was congratulated by swaths of guests including Michael Stipe and Lewis Hamilton.
“He is Savile Row, he is the street, he is the club,” Jones raved about Nemeth in his show notes. “I can see the influence of his work in so many collections, and yet it is not often acknowledged and still seems unknown to many.”
Nemeth who died in 2010 aged 51 had been an illustrator before becoming a fashion designer and one of his signatures was to use canvas, discarded post sacks, and reconfigured old suiting. Conversely his artwork would portray the process of crafting clothes. On the Vuitton catwalk Jones utilised one of Nemeth’s artworks – a rope print which appeared several times on poloneck jumpers and cashmere duffle coats. Multiple mini messenger bags bearing the house monogram were worn crossed over the body – a reference to style in the fashionable Harajuku district of Tokyo, where Nemeth is well known, but which could also be read as a cheeky nod to that other cult 1980s fashion hub: Kensington Market.
Under Kim Jones Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections have wielded huge influence over the entire fashion industry. Last season’s focus on the 70s is currently being rolled out into many designer’s collections a full six months later, while Jones’s penchant for designing luxury boilersuits is fast becoming an insider menswear trend with the high street hoping to cash in.
In Thursday’s show it was the silhouette which was the most striking. Trousers were cut slim and uncomplicated. Cashmere and denim jeans were turned up and showed off cream woollen socks and heavy boots with white technical soles; chunky coats added bulk at the top. It’s likely that the influence of this collection, with its simply drawn silhouette of chunky tops, slim trousers and technical shoes, will be seen in the wider menswear market in months to come. But despite Jones’s best efforts the ripple effect from this Nemeth tribute is unlikely to result in fashion’s unsung hero being known outside of fashion fans in the know.
The love letter to Nemeth and London creativity makes strong business as well as artistic sense. Naturally for the brand whose parent company LVMH was recently listed by Forbes as the most valuable luxury brand in the world, commercial impetus is never far from the label’s agenda. Backstage Jones admitted that the London tribute comes at a time when Louis Vuitton is celebrating 130 years in London. The brand opened its first store outside France in 1885. “It’s my city, where I live and where I get my inspiration,” the designer said.