"Virgil Abloh's anticipated debut at Louis Vuitton's Menswear"
If you haven’t heard the name yet, it’s never too late. He’s the creative director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear and the founder and director of the luxe-streetwear label Off-White. As if being at the helm of two major fashion labels wasn’t enough, Virgil DJ’s in nightclubs and summer festivals all over the world and is working on a furniture line with IKEA and doing gallery showings with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami; he even has his own radio show. The Illinois native adheres to an intense work ethic that would surpass any 25-unit schedule full of technicals at Cal; however, Virgil insists that he hasn’t worked a day since his thesis at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
His appointment at LV was huge news but nobody had any real clue of what he would do for his first show. The days leading up to the insanely hyped up show were filled with Virgil teasing parts of the collection on Instagram. On the day of the launch of IGTV, Instagram’s new, lengthy video service, Louis Vuitton’s account posted an 11-minute video showing the design process for the collection.
Then came the show, and even though there was huge anticipation and pressure on the designer, he managed to exceed all expectations. Images of the magical, rainbow-infused 200-meter runway in Paris’ Palais Royal began to flood the internet as notorious guests poured in. The celebrities in attendance weren’t there because they were simply notorious faces but rather due to their personal relationships with Virgil, who seems to have friends of all cultural and professional backgrounds. (3)
The show started with 17 black models wearing beautifully tailored white and cream garments ranging from elegant overcoats to flowy pants. Contrary to my initial belief, fashion shows haven’t been diverse until very recently.Many times still, the non-white models feel like they’re walking to merely fulfill the quota, but in this case, it wasn’t even a question as Virgil is the first black artistic director for any LVMH company and the inclusion of a very diverse cast seemed natural and effortless. Then came a myriad of models sporting very bright and colorful pieces that still managed to be serene and true to Louis Vuitton’s fashion codes. Amongst the models were famous faces within the music, streetwear, and skateboarding scenes such as Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti, A$AP Nast, Steve Lacy, Blondey McCoy and Lucien Clarke.
Virgil is known for being a very logomania, streetwear, t-shirt oriented designer which frankly scared a lot of fashion insiders as one cannot get away with slapping a logo on different pieces in such a big house like LV. However, he delivered a modern collection that escaped the possible clichés and pitfalls many thought he was prone to. Interestingly, LV is known for its bags and while we thought we had already seen every shape and size variation of bags, Virgil brought a very refreshing take on this staple. Many models sported holsters with up to 4 little bags on them, others wearing sweaters and jackets with such bulky pockets that it appears as though a side-bag had been morphed into the garment itself.
The duffle bags, a Louis Vuitton essential were also reimagined by Virgil. He used a monochromatic, trans lucid scheme and added ceramic chains on them. An interesting touch that adds both functionality and can be analyzed for a much deeper meaning of repurposing the objects that once had been used to hold back entire populations.
Virgil also had his own take on the classic monogram to make it look much more futuristic and younger. He used a single color instead of the more traditional two-tone, and used debossing in order to make the classic pattern appear.
Another standout element of the show was the inclusion of a couple graphics from the Wizard of Oz. Although this seemed very random at first, Dorothy, the girl in the story, is from the Midwest and is transported to a magical land where she experiences things “beyond the reach of her imagination. As an outsider, she soon discovers she was taken to Oz for a reason” said a pamphlet handed out at the show. Drawing parallels, we see that Virgil is from the Midwest and Louis Vuitton is the fashion house with the most resources and where the designer can not only execute his vision to maximum capacity, but also push it to new boundaries.
To conclude, the show felt like we were in Oz. The beautiful setting was complemented by music from Kanye’s ye adapted by the band BADBADNOTGOOD. There was a sense of freedom and beauty radiated both in the models and the clothes. In 6 years, Virgil has grown from printing on vintage flannels at “Pyrex” and being mocked by the fashion industry, to completely dominating it. This feeling of accomplishment was epitomized by the end of the show when Virgil came out to salute. With tears flowing down his face, as was the case for many of his audience members, he embraced his longtime friend and collaborator Kanye West who also broke into tears. An infamous photo taken in Paris of 2009 shows these two nonconforming creatives; they were outcasted in the industry for their out of the box thinking and fashion rule breaking. Now these same two designers are creating the rules.
The appointment and show was an emotional culmination of Virgil’s work and a huge step for the democratization of fashion. Although the collection will be far from accessible to most of us, there was a deep feeling that anyone can accomplish great things, as cliché as that sounds. In this case, that feeling reverberated amongst those in the Palais-Royal and all of us around the world paying attention.
Words By Albert Tres