Welcome to the world of Virgil Abloh, unfiltered and unabridged. For SS22 Louis Vuitton‘s artistic director presented an unrestrained summation of his wide-ranging cultural cornerstones, bringing together a back-catalogue of references that have shaped him as a designer. Cinematic exposition has understandably been among the most favoured alternatives in lieu of physical runway shows, but few have really embraced the craft like Vuitton have here: with a hugely ambitious sixteen-minute film titled Amen Break, whose startlingly poetic visuals are matched only by a soundtrack carved from hip-hop’s golden age.
For those unacquainted with the history of percussion, the amen break is a seminal drum loop first recorded in 1969 that has been sampled countless times since. After it helped pave the emergence of hip-hop sampling in the US, where it was memorably used by the likes of N.W.A and Wu-Tang Clan, the loop found its way across the pond where it proved equally instrumental in the rise of UK hardcore, jungle and drum and base, mastered by early pioneers like Goldie and Carl Cox. The break’s significance to Abloh is two-fold. First, as a symbol of innovative Black music (the break originated with funk and soul group, The Winstons) and second as a cultural baton whose path can be traced across the world and multiple generations.
All these ideas (and many of those names) featured here, as well as a collection that reflected many of the cross-pollinating sub-culture groups that accompany the break’s diverse history. From the tracksuits that defined a rave scene that spilled over from the dancefloors of Detroit and Chicago, to the martial arts references that informed many of Wu-Tang Clan’s greatest works, and other cultural cornerstones like Nike’s Air Force 1 and chequers, the collection embraced what it termed “the struggle of polar opposites”. Suit vs tracksuit, natural vs processed, man vs woman, chess vs chequers, these dichotomies were reconciled in a collection that celebrated the sprawling lineage of Black culture and the contemporary strength of those connections.
GALLERYCatwalk looks from this show