A new era
Some designer announcements hold more gravitas than others. When Louis Vuitton announced Virgil Abloh as its new artistic director – succeeding Kim Jones – it was seismic. Shaking up the fashion landscape, here was one of fashion’s most storied behemoths putting its future in the hands of someone whose formal qualifications lie in engineering and architecture, not fashion, someone who gained prominence as a creative consultant for Kanye West, and – lest we forget – the first person of colour to hold the top position at the house. Armed with a progressive and left-field design ethos, the Ghanaian-American designer’s appointment truly dissolved the pre-conceived notions of what a fashion designer is.
Needless to say, Abloh’s debut show for LV gave us a lot to chew. So let’s break it down a little: beginning with Abloh’s show venue and invites. Inside Paris’ Jardin du Palais Royal, the designer had created a rainbow catwalk – referencing the dispersion of light by a prism (à la Dark Side of the Moon). Lined by students the designer had invited from around the French capital, guests were seated in particular sections and given a t-shirt of the corresponding colour (created during Abloh’s early days at LV – “once I learned how to use the photocopier in the office,” he joked on Instagram). Alongside the tee came a booklet containing a world map showing each model’s birthplace, and the birthplace of their parents, and the ‘Vocabulary according to Virgil Abloh’. This new lexicon included gems such as:
“Kanye West – A mentor and friend to Virgil Abloh”
“Long-windedness “A blessing and a curse.” – Virgil Abloh.”
“Exposure – An apparatus recognised by designers in the social media age of fashion. Can lead to Artistic Director positions at Louis Vuitton.”
“Disc Jockey – “I like loud music.” – Virgil Abloh.”
Leading a maison built around notions of travel, Abloh was applying this history to the present day, championing diversity and equality in our multicultural world.
Now onto the music. Previous to the show, Abloh announced UK DJ Benji B as the house’s new music director. His first task? Recruiting instrumental group BADBADNOTGOOD to perform live at the SS19 show. Set up to the side of the catwalk, the band played a medley that, at one point, mixed with Kanye West’s I Thought About Killing You, which fizzed out the speakers.
From somewhere over the (seemingly infinite) rainbow catwalk, models began to appear: the first wearing a pure white double-breasted suit with baggy, pleated trousers and a white holdall with a thick ceramic chain hanging off (a recurring feature for the collection’s accessories. A series of all white palette-cleansing looks followed as archetypal menswear silhouettes were given the Abloh treatment: tailoring was paired with luminous gilets, cobalt leather harnesses were strapped around silk shirts, leather vests were styled above shirting like bullet-proof, anoraks were cut away at the back to reveal attached bum bags and the house’s impeccable suiting was reworked to create soft silhouettes that danced with the music. Injecting Louis Vuitton’s craftsmanship with his own unique motion and attitude, this was optimised by the designer’s diverse model cast that featured musicians A$AP Nast, Playboi carti, Kid Cudi and Theophilus London.
Elsewhere, crêpe de chine shirts were crafted with oversized cuffs and Wizard of Oz motifs featured throughout, as Dorothy and the gang featured in print, in sequins and across a silk jacquard jacket. Why Wizard of Oz? Trace Abloh’s story from his Illinois roots to leading fashion’s elite and Dorothy’s story of finding her path resonates true. And that’s without a single pair of ruby slippers in sight.
As Abloh took his bow, he made his way to Kanye and the two embraced as the musician weeped with joy.
GALLERYCatwalk looks from this show