Louis Vuitton: Abloh uber-debuts with luxurious utilitarian workwear
There was practically pandemonium getting into the Palais Royal Thursday afternoon, as hundreds of fans fought for a glimpse all the high-wattage names come to witness the debut of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton menswear.
They did not come away disappointed as Kanye West; Kim Kardashian, Rihanna; ASAP Rocky; Rita Ora; Naomi Campbell; Takashi Murakami; Natalia Vodianova; Doutzen Kroes and a barrage of LVMH executives sat down at fashion’s longest runway in eons - a 250-meter rainbow-colored catwalk. There was a time when they arrested revolutionaries and guillotined aristocrats in the Palais Royal; and Paris fashion critics have bloodied many a debuting designer over the years.
But in the end, Abloh won a well-merited standing ovation for a hyper luxury sportswear collection that had just the right soupcon of arty attitude and faintly feminine pizzazz.
The collection was very much in the spirit of Abloh’s own brand Off/White, but he was savvy enough to take the whole affair to another level – injecting opulence, exotic materials, and a sense of grandeur into most every look.
There was a palpable sense of history being made, since the show marked the first time a black designer had ever been given the reins at a major European luxury brand. But then his first 17 looks came all in white, emphasizing the tailoring with mohair double-breasted jackets and flat front, uber wide pants; notably a rather brilliant technical cotton Monogram embossed suit; and some very fine transparent organza army parkas, again with the monogram pattern.
Of Ghanaian origin, Abloh was raised in Rockford, Illinois; earned degrees in engineering and architecture; and later worked as a creative director for Kanye West. His own line, Off/White, launched in 2013, has been a cult hit since its first show. In an LV program that featured “The vocabulary according to Virgil Abloh,” the designer referenced his hometown “where Midwest practicality and utilitarian workwear defined the popular dress sense, effectively creating an unintentional take on anti-fashion.” While Louis Vuitton he described as a “Parisian purveyor of leather goods founded in 1854. Defined by its Monogram, the House invented logomania. Its brand value retains unparalleled standing across cultures and classes.”
The essence of this show was smack in the middle between these two definitions. Hence, one got a faintly bulky workerist jean jacket with rounded pockets, not in white denim but in mink; while the weekend backpack worn with it came in white Taurillon leather, again embossed with the LV Monogram. And in the same material he created soft, oversized suitcases worthy of Claes Oldenberg.
He finished half his looks with pockets and pouches, worthy of a busy construction worker or busy deerhunter, but again in noble materials; and whipped up some great quilted knit cycling tops and fencing vests. The runway was crammed with ideas that were all about hyper luxurious sportswear. Yet he managed to keep his aesthetic sufficiently far from the high-tech athletic fashion that suddenly looked old on the runways of Milan this past weekend.
Not everything worked – quite how the tie-dyed smocks and tops made it past the edit defeats us. But overall this show was a smash success. Climaxing, as predicted by FashionNetwork.com, with a Wizard of Oz finale, and Dorothy smiling out from floral poppy organza parkas.
In the end, Abloh took a full tour of the catwalk, barely holding back tears, the entire garden applauding.
“Fantastique!” enthused the king of luxury, LVMH chairman, and Abloh’s ultimate boss Bernard Arnault, as he and three sons all paid homage to the designer.
Though, in a sense this project began a dozen years ago when Vuitton CEO Michael Burke first met Abloh in Japan. When staging a Fendi event in Tokyo in 2006, where Kanye West made a guest appearance, the musician introduced Burke to Abloh, then part of his design entourage.
“I knew as soon as I met Virgil that I was going to do something with him. He had that magic you get to recognize in really creative people. I owe today to Kanye, and I thank him for that,” concluded Vuitton CEO Michael Burke, standing across from the very spot where the greatest revolutionary of them all, Georges Danton, was first arrested.
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