Equality, innovation and The Wizard of Oz – let’s have a look at Virgil Abloh’s first menswear offering as the new artistic director for Louis Vuitton.
The gardens of Paris’ Palais Royal had a haze of bated breath as, taking the baton from Kim Jones, Virgil Abloh showcased his menswear debut for Louis Vuitton at this season’s Paris Fashion Week Men’s.
The show centred around a rainbow runway, which not only lent as a beautiful polychromatic backdrop for the collection and symbolised Dorothy’s progression from monochrome to technicolour in The Wizard of Oz, but also acknowledged the colours of the Pride flag during June, being Pride month.
This execution of inclusivity continued through Abloh’s models, which were selected from almost every continent of the world (bar Antarctica) and ranged from being skateboarding stars to artists of music and fashion. Diversification on the runway was replicated with the mixture of guests, as A Listers such as Rihanna and Abloh’s mentor Kanye West were sat in close proximity to fashion students handpicked by Abloh, all wearing rainbow hued t-shirts. The display of all-embracing equality and lack of superiority highlights Abloh’s consideration for the future of fashion, and pairing this with Louis Vuitton being a luxury fashion house built on the art of travel, we can understand why Abloh commented that this collection had “a global view on diversity linked to the travel DNA of the brand.”
Similarly to Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent debut, Abloh reimagined the classics. Vuitton is renowned for accessories, so Abloh took the iconic bag shapes of the Keepall, Runner and Petit-Malle (which is a miniature version of the luggage trunks that the house made in the 1800s) and modified them by using new, vibrant colours, modern materials such as matte leather and iridescent plastic and duplicating the ceramic bag chains into bracelets and necklaces.
Each attendee had a dictionary placed on their seats, and Abloh explained the gesture as follows:
“The biggest goal for a first collection in any scenario is to start so that people can understand the new vocabulary…a liberal definition of terms and explanation of ideas.”
The dictionary explained exactly why The Wizard of Oz was so pertinent to the collection. Not only did the looks begin as bright white and then progress into bold, unapologetic colours like the film itself, but the dictionary made D stand for Dorothy: “A farm girl from the Midwest transported to Oz, a fairy tale land where she experiences things beyond her imagination. As an outsider, she soon discovers she was taken to Oz for a reason”. Maybe this Paris Fashion Week is beyond Abloh’s wildest fairy-tale dreams, then. The description of an “outsider” seems fitting for the new artistic director too, as he is thirty-seven years old and did not go to fashion school. Instead, he qualified in engineering and architecture. Yet, the collection displays the analytical craftsmanship of his fields of expertise. Abloh made the fabric, pattern cutting and silhouette take centre stage, exhibiting himself as a designer as with keen eye for precision and innovation. Similarly to Dorothy being “taken to Oz for a reason,” this shows that despite his untraditional approach towards fashion, Abloh was destined to be a fashion designer and artistic director.
Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s chief executive, has praised Abloh as possessing an “innate creativity and a disruptive attitude,” and rightly so. Abloh’s reimagination of LV classics is creating a fresh, new image of what an artistic director really is. Even on the day of this debut, Abloh candidly and refreshingly expressed how he wants to discover the true meaning and definition of what this superior title truly means in this new era of fashion.
“Tides change when positions evolve.” – Virgil Abloh
In his dictionary under ‘R’, Abloh defined Rainbow as “a kaleidoscopic palette evolving from off-white to polychromatic, synchronously forming a holograph archway known to represent dream. A motif in The Wizard of Oz, which provide construct to the Spring-Summer 2019 collection.” Abloh’s analysis acknowledges his association with his label Off-White, and suggests how bridging the gap between his label and Louis Vuitton is a dream come true. The whole image evoked indicates that Abloh has proudly accepted his promotion and progression into the high fashion technicolour dream of Louis Vuitton.
What are your thoughts on Virgil Abloh’s first menswear collection for Louis Vuitton? Let us know in the comments below.
Text: Natalie Zannikos
Images: The Guardian, High Snobiety, Dazed