Not even two months have passed since Virgil Abloh abruptly died of cardiac angiosarcoma, yet he has since presented two Louis Vuitton Men’s fashion shows in two different cities. Last month we gathered in Miami for the Spring/Summer 2022 show, and yesterday in Paris, friends of the house joined once more for the Fall/Winter 2022 presentation. There to bid adieu to Abloh’s boundless creativity for the maison were friends and collaborators, colleagues and confidants, musicians and models, designers, and more.
Those in attendance knew the peripatetic designer had a knack for being in all places at all times, picking apart culture and pulling out what struck him as he moved from location to location, and from time to time. And those that admired his collections for Louis Vuitton at a distance saw its garments and accessories infused with such references, anew with rich context. So, it was no surprise that yesterday, in a heavenly dreamscape filled with friends, we saw Abloh there—everywhere, in every way.
At the Carreau du Temple, the emotive show began with an unforgettable atmosphere. Baby blue stadium seating enveloped the space, hosting a cozy set with a red roof, a large bed, a long dining room table, and more. Each piece buzzed with quintessential Louis Vuitton markings, like “LV” monograms and floral motifs engrained on them in unique ways. As guests took their seats, the Chineke Orchestra began to play music composed by Abloh’s friend, Tyler, The Creator, who sat nearby. On the backs of each musician’s chair, life lessons from Abloh were seen, like “Share Your Secrets,” “Freedom From Perfection,” and “Less is War.”
To the sharp tunes of the live performers, visual projections of bright colors began to flutter across the space, hitting columns and the empty spaces between models that walked by. Elaborating on Abloh’s “Boyhood” ideology, the set and many of the collection’s details that followed embraced the innocent and limitless mind of a child. The believability of dreams becoming a reality connected childlike ideas to adulthood today.
Looks at large and micro imagery in the forms of characters, too—like cartoons, wizards, and cats—nodded to deeper meanings of inclusivity versus exclusivity, high versus low, and masculine versus feminine. An animated cat carrying a bindle bag was not just mischievously cute, it nodded to being an outsider, forever on the move. The contrast of opposites continued to ultimately complement each other, like garments embracing both realism and surrealism, including an all-over look dedicated to The Painter’s Studio work from 1855 by Gustave Courbet.
For his eighth and final collection, we watched Abloh’s artistic wand wave over a collection that examined the deeper meanings of human values, yet again. This time, the clothing and accessories that men wore, like tired tulle skirts and dangling earrings, punctuated the runway with relevancy regarding culture, community, and even a fluid wardrobe. “I focus on relevancy. Relevancy is my metric,” read Abloh’s collection notes.
Among the floor-sweeping dresses and monogrammed veils, Just Don strapback caps and varsity jacket patches, we felt the line come alive through varying colors, textures, and dynamic silhouettes. Royal purples and bold greens hit garments complemented by accessories in signature Louis Vuitton brown and beige; suits were tailored, but not too much, revealing twists and turns in the way they closed and hung on the body; and upcycling—either an upcycled idea or a material—got luxurious, with new sneakers and bags, techniques and themes.
Fortunately, the “8” collection was not void of imagination or reference points; everything was documented across a 47-page playbook of details, ideologies, and quotes Abloh has shared since his start at Louis Vuitton in 2018. The building blocks that went into this large offering ranged from inspirations found in wabi-sabi and theater, zoom calls and zoot suits, Lawrence Weiner and The Wiz, and his tried-and-true idea of the “tourist vs. purist.”
The emotional finale was led by Naomi Campbell, wearing all white with a sideways cap, and her head held high. Although she was not scheduled to walk in the show, the world-renowned model did so at the last minute, stating on Instagram that she originally came to Paris to pay her respects to Abloh and honor him by watching his last show. Yet when she landed she felt compelled to walk in his last collection, noting that her full-circle moment started and ended by speaking to the same mutual casting directors and editors that connected them in the first place to make it happen. “They say ask for what you want,” Naomi said in the post. And that seems to be what Abloh always said, too.