It's no secret that Louis Vuitton's Kim Jones loves the eighties. He's obsessively collected clothing from that period for years now, amassing an archive of hundreds of pieces, a select few of which can be found at Louis Vuitton HQ in Paris as references. Aside from Leigh Bowery's widow, he's got the biggest collection of the late performance artist's clothing. A Bowery hat sits on his desk in his office and he makes those that enter try it on. He's also got bits by Rachel Auburn, Stephen Linard and Modern Classics. But his all time favourite is Christopher Nemeth, a designer so undervalued he's barely Google-able, but a true genius if you speak to anyone who's lucky enough to have examined his work (Jones is the proud owner of a few pieces). It was the way Nemeth epitomised a make-do-and-mend attitude by championing home-craft (see the Savile Row standard jackets made from panels of discarded suits and old sacks) that inspired Jones, whose A/W 15 collection was a tribute to the late designer. There's a parallel there - sure Nemeth worked with rubbish while Vuitton use the finest leathers and cashmeres, but his focus on elevating the ordinary had seeped in; maybe that's why Jones had embossed his sweaters unexpectedly with cork in a design lifted from the Nemeth archives (one of several that appeared in the collection).
The house of Louis Vuitton has a history of championing and re-promoting the work of forgotten heroes - industry favourites who have fallen out of the limelight in the popular consciousness. Marc Jacobs perhaps did it best with that now iconic Stephen Sprouse collection. Did this have the same punch? No, but that was deliberate and the collection's greatest asset. Jones embraced the subtlety of Nemeth, choosing, with the help of the late designers' family, a range of motifs from his work, some recognisable to those who remember the The House of Beauty and Culture, others that needed explaining to even the most avid fan. This wasn't pastiche - it wasn't a skin deep tribute to the eighties. It was about capturing spirit rather than jazzing up surface. That said, you couldn't help but admire the way a Nemeth pattern had been lasered onto shearling outerwear. It looked just as good on the runway as it did on those lucky few taste-makers who'd already got there hands on one - proving it's a piece to be seen in before it's even gone into production.
There was a certain irony to seeing Nemeth, a man who spent a large amount of his life away in Toyko with a small shop in the Harajuku area, pop up on the Vuitton runway. Sure, it felt totally organic and natural for Jones, who'd naturally pulled in regular collaborator Judy Blame, also of the House of Beauty and Culture collective, to fashion bric-a-brac jewellery and badges. But for the sales machine that is Vuitton? A tribute to those that pioneer creativity over commerciality may seem odd, especially when models are walking the runway in multiple monogramed bumbags. But that's the brilliance of Jones, who boldly brings his own passions and ideals to Vuitton and why the output feels so modern, so sporty, so fresh (see the effortless denim jackets and needle-punched jeans, or the parkas and signature jumpsuits that Jones does so well). A/W 15 may have been about looking back to the past, but this was resolutely forward-thinking. It's apt that the show closed with a version of Soul II Soul's infectious Back to Life - the spirit of Nemeth was truly present. Even if you had to look beyond the obvious to see it, you could feel it.