Living life to the fullest is a feat not commonly achieved by many. One must come to terms with a myriad of self-identity issues before beginning to grasp the idea of enjoying life. Virgil Abloh, designer extraordinaire and mastermind behind the menswear collections for Louis Vuitton since 2018, managed to do so thanks to his work and his exploration of boyhood, identity, race, and legacy. Passing away in November 2021, the Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 line was his last collection, one which now serves as a celebration of his outstanding contributions to the fashion world.
Set upon a dreamy landscape, the fashion show took place on top and around of Louis Dreamhouse, a representation of the disintegrated border between reality and fantasy in a boy’s mind. The line separating runway and theatre also blurred away during the show, as models, dressed in the latest collection, took on to dancing and climbing all over the set, creating a whimsical display of fun and fashion.
This collection marks the pinnacle of Abloh’s exploration of the Tourist vs Purist concept, his ideations of boyhood and the permanence of social constructs in the mind. Cartoon characters in the shape of animals, wizards, cherubs, grim reapers, and bees spot the clothes, echoing the playful imagination of a child and mirroring archetypal concepts at the same time: strength, nature, time, magic, creation.
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Some pieces feature a special dialogue between realism and surrealism: two iconic paintings are printed all over coats, trousers, shorts, jackets, and blazers. On the one hand, the realist The Painter’s Studio by Gustave Courbet, which embodies the Tourist (the various levels of French society portrayed on the left of the painting) versus Purist (the high society on the right) ideology. On the other hand, Souvenir d’Italie, by early surrealist Giorgio de Chirico, which reflects the concepts of originality, provenance, and self-reference examined by Abloh.
Some standout pieces include the aforementioned head-to-toe prints of both paintings, as well as monochrome ensembles in bright purple, turquoise and baby blue. A shining sequined outfit in maroon with purple accents shines through the runway, while flower prints come to life next to the Louis Vuitton Monogram and iconic patterns.
Closing the show were perhaps the most outstanding yet somewhat sober pieces. Full white attires evoke purity and transcendence. A muted dissonance to the often-outrageous colour combination and motifs employed by Abloh. A tribute to the heavens, laced wings akin to seraphim and cherubim parade down the sky-blue runway. Lace veils, hats, trousers, and coats march down in a genderless celebration of Abloh’s life and legacy. An emotional moment followed, the Louis Vuitton tailors came on stage in the stead of their late mentor, in an act of love and companionship that culminated in an exploding applause.
“Within my practice, I contribute to a Black Canon of culture and art and its preservation. This is why, to preserve my own output, I record it at length.”
-Virgil Abloh, A manifesto according to Virgil Abloh, 2020
Virgil Abloh influenced Louis Vuitton and their menswear collections, bringing the streetwear lifestyle and the ready-to-wear concepts into high fashion. However, he impacted the fashion world at large, introducing the discussion of the relevance of purism in a hermetic world against the acceptance of new, opposing, touristy ideals, as well as exploring concepts often denied to men and people of colour. A trend setter, a convention breaker, Virgil Abloh established a new chapter in Black history, demonstrating the value of opening historically hermetic and closed spaces to racialized individuals, evidencing the importance of letting men, especially young men, express and connect with their emotions, demonstrating the capability of a young, sensible, Black man to change the world with his own imagination.