FASHION’S UNSUNG HERO. Kim Jones revived the legacy of Christopher Nemeth for Louis Vuitton’s fall/winter ’15/’16 collection. Gabriela Yosefina reports from Tokyo.
Nemeth’s Store in Tokyo
How would you pay tribute to your personal hero? For Kim Jones, Louis Vuitton men’s artistic director, the answer to that question is to dedicate a whole collection inspired by his hero. Last June, I got the chance to take a closer look of that collection and to trace a slice of that hero’s story during the brand’s regional press presentation in Casa Jingumae, Tokyo.
Located in the Omotesando area where rows of charming stores stand alongside old-school housing blocks, Casa Jingumae features minimalistic architecture that still manages to look striking. That day, the Louis Vuitton men’s collection was displayed on the highest floor, with the seasonal pieces standing out against the white, concrete interior. Two duffel coats immediately stole my attention: They boasted a distinctive pattern I have previously seen on the brand’s fall/winter ’15/’16 runway show.
A Runway Look From The Fall/Winter Collection
Then I proceeded to leaf through the pieces and spotted the same rope-like pattern on both the clothes and accessories. They were even printed against the brand’s iconic Monogram and Damier, in the same manner as Louis Vuitton’s previous collaboration with artists Takashi Murakami and Stephen Sprouse. It did not seem like a coincidence, since this season’s collection felt decidedly more arty and emotional than the house’s usual adventurous, travel-driven offerings.
Unlike in past seasons, Jones did not travel to some exotic part of the world to search for inspiration. He instead traveled in time to the club kid’s era and “transported” his favorite designer, Christopher Nemeth, to the present day. “I think Christopher Nemeth is the most important designer to come out of London alongside Vivienne Westwood,” Jones stated officially. “He is Savile Row; he is the street; he is the club … his designs define London. He trained as a fine artist and came into fashion from being an illustrator, and that chimes with how I started. 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.”
“I think Christopher Nemeth is the most important designer to come out of London alongside Vivienne Westwood”
So for this fall/winter, Jones has reworked Nemeth’s visual signature to become the main feature of his collection. He translated it in multiple ways—from laser etchings on shearling, cork embossed cashmere and even a flocked suitcase. All in all, the designer kept the palette very Nemeth: earthy and crafty without lacking vigor. The tribute fashion show held in Paris several months earlier was also very “Nemeth-ian” as his friends pitched in and joined forces with Jones: Nellee Hooper put together a soundtrack of Nemeth’s favorite songs; photographer Mark Lebon created a tribute movie; and stylist Judy Blame designed a fitting selection of jewelry pieces. The artistic director also consulted with Nemeth’s widow and daughters for the details of the collection.
Nemeth’s Patterns Juxtaposed Against Damier
But who is Nemeth exactly? Born in 1959 in England, he initially studied painting at the Camberwell College of Arts. After graduating, he started creating clothes using canvas he painted on and discarded post sacks to reconfigure old suits. He then continued to practice art through his clothing design; he hand-painted, deconstructed, and cut the pieces in a way that combined Savile Row tailoring and street wear. Conversely, Nemeth illustrated his clothes-making process in paintings by featuring needle and thread, the weave of fabric, and hands at work. Such rebellious creativity and craft defined the youthful spirit of London in the eighties. In 1986, he moved to Tokyo, and he resided there until his death in 2010. During his stay in the country, he remained an artistic fixture who influenced a lot of designers and subcultures with his deconstructed style.
The Patterns on Accessories
Nemeth’s life in Tokyo was an important chapter in his life. He met his wife-to-be during a visit to the city and decided to move halfway around the world to be with her. There he continued his art and design ventures by setting a store-studio that is still run by his wife and daughter today. It is situated within walking distance from Casa Jingumae, where the press presentation was held, and I got a chance to visit the store. Upon entering the space, I spotted some of his paintings on the wall that was covered in his original patterns. There were racks filled with clothes of Nemeth’s classic designs and a corner dedicated to furniture, such as rugs and pillows. Even though the pieces were for sale, the overall ambiance of the store was like that of a small museum preserving the last moments of his life. It was as if the corners there were an homage to him.
Inside Casa Jingumae
And that homage will continue, when Louis Vuitton’s fall/winter ’15/’16 pieces hit the stores. Jones knows all too well that he has the influence and artistic ability to reinvigorate an unsung hero’s image and make people listen. I, for one, have been paying close attention, as this one is more than just a seasonal installment. It is an important lesson in fashion history and a profound celebration of original creativity.