Louis Vuitton has paid tribute to Virgil Abloh just days after his death, with a bittersweet presentation of the designer’s final menswear collection, dubbed Virgil Was Here.
Unveiled in Miami, this was the French fashion house’s first show in the US, and had been in the works for months. Initially planned as the unofficial kick-off to the prestigious Art Basel fair, it morphed into a sombre yet whimsical tribute to Abloh, who died on Sunday after a lengthy battle with cancer, leaving the industry reeling.
Guests were ferried by yacht to the star-studded affair. Celebrities in attendance, including Kim Kardashian West and her daughter North, Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, model Bella Hadid, Joe Jonas, Maluma and Pharrell, arrived in sleek LV monogrammed silver speedboats. Rappers Offset, Quavo, and Kid Cudi walked the runway, while Erykah Badu performed at an after-party. “Hey Virgil,” she yelled at the start of her set, later saying, “We want to see you fly.”
A focal point of the show was a giant red LV-monogrammed hot air balloon that puffed flames as Abloh’s voice was heard in the background.
The brand's chief executive, Michael Burke, said Abloh's wife and family wanted the show to go on. He revealed that he had spoken to Abloh on Saturday night. “We had imagined it all and he was distraught not to be here in person.
“Virgil was not only a friend, great collaborator, creative genius, visionary and disruptor, but also one of the best cultural communicators of our times. He paved the way for future generations,” Burke said.
Models meandered around a tree-lined runway, presenting a collection that, as Abloh’s voice could be heard explaining, captured his approach of “getting adults to behave like children again ... to go back into this sense of wonderment. They start to stop using their mind and they start using their imagination."
There was neon aqua-gear, letterman-style school sweaters and snow bunny looks paired with furry boots, a reminder that Abloh was, at his core, endlessly inventive. Military-style suits in olive were paired with belted coats, tie-dye prints appeared on shorts and jackets, and ice cream tones of pink, purple, yellow and blue created a stunning ombre pattern on matching jackets and trousers. Structured skirts fell above trousers, paired with a jacket that looked like an expanded bulletproof vest. In every instance, Abloh’s masterful ability to meld streetwear with luxury was reiterated.
At the end, the show circled back to the hot air balloon as Abloh's voice was heard saying: “Life is short … you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do versus knowing what you can do.”