Luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton presented its autumn/winter 2022 menswear collection at Paris Fashion Week on Thursday – the last by late designer Virgil Abloh – bringing down the curtain on an extraordinary era.
At the helm of Louis Vuitton’s menswear for eight seasons, the designer, who died of cancer in November aged only 41, managed to stage something of a coup during that short time, bringing in dazzling ideas and a sense of streetwise fearlessness to the house.
Abloh's collection, named Louis Dreamhouse, was unveiled on a stage scattered with the remnants of a home. A staircase, an empty bed and even a long dining table lay around, while above it all hung a clock, stopped at 8pm. In true Abloh style, the show used both models and dancers – almost 90 in total – to create a living tableau and deliver looks that ranged from the sharpest of tailoring to renegade streetwear.
Abloh was fastidious about recording every facet of his ideas, as if aware his time for getting his vision across was limited. The show was accompanied by 38 pages of notes packed with ideas, drawings and quotes. One, in particular, summed up his hybrid approach for Louis Vuitton, blending suiting with streetwear.
“Is a man in tailoring trustworthy? Is a man in ‘streetwear’ less trustworthy? Does a man, who wears a suit by day, rave in a tracksuit by night?” he asked.
Adept at looking past traditional boundaries and with an unnerving instinct for grabbing attention, in this final show, Abloh sent out a bag shaped like a bouquet of flowers, sharp-shouldered dandies, long velvet skirts and even closed the show with "bridal" looks, in which male models wore hooped skirts and veils. Yet, in between, came the real treasures.
There was a beautifully cut, button-down coat in burnt chocolate, finished with a gleaming jewel and lilac shirt; a tracksuit jacket exploded out into a side fastening coat, complete with trailing sleeves; and a loose tracksuit rendered in lush, plush velvet, with huge pockets on the shins.
There was a silk velvet jacket worn over a floral patterned shirt and trousers, and a series of looks made from Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico’s work The Melancholy of Departure, because, according to Abloh, it summed up “the principle that ‘old’ ideas should be invigorated with value and presented alongside the ‘new,’ because both are equal in worth.”
Abloh sent out looks finished with giant angel wings, or adorned with a sketched grim reaper, as a bleak reminder of the relentless, ticking clock we all face.
As this final collection was revealed, to a soundtrack by Tyler, the Creator, and played by the Chineke! Orchestra, it was impossible not to be aware of the huge talent we have lost in Abloh.