Spring 2021 Menswear
Pictures by Louis Vuitton
FROM PARIS WITH LOVE
Virgil Abloh Ships His Latest LV Collection to Shanghai and Seals it With a Stuffed Animal Kiss
On an overcast August day, a collection of red LV marked shipping crates were displayed on a dock in Shanghai. “DO NOT OPEN” they warned, as LA-based animation artist Reggie Know’s oversized cartoon balloon “stowaways” swayed and guarded the shipment, presumably just arriving from Paris, via the Seine, which was the character’s last known sighting, documented in the YouTube series Zoooom With Friends.
While the characters and collection may have arrived fresh from Paris, Louis Vuitton Menswear’s creative director Virgil Abloh did not. With the majority of the world still reeling from the ongoing effects of the COVID virus, Shanghai has somewhat returned to normal, as was evident from the mask-less crowds lining the docks. Abloh enlisted stylist Ibrahim Kamara to help with the collection, which the two styled and shipped from Paris weeks prior. The kinetic collection was the result of several all-Black collaborators including Know and Kamara, including a specially filmed performance from Lauryn Hill. Abloh is deeply feeling the effects of the racial unrest in America and beyond, honoring his Ghanian heritage with tributes to his parents via strong shoulder suiting and green, yellow and red Rastafarian flag references.
The main theme of the collection, however, is one of childhood innocence. A vision of the world untainted by outside influences where imagination is still free. The show opened with turquoise clad ringleaders marching about with floating seagulls and clouds, a nod to where Abloh previously left us with his Fall/Winter 2020 collection. Effortlessly tailored suits in neutral tan, black and white segued into almost abrasive primary color suits adorned with stuffed animals sewn onto lapels, some camouflaged by monochromatic color, other standing out in their own patterns and style. It would be negligible to forgo the controversy that has surrounded Abloh since his appointment in 2019, namely that he loosely borrows inspiration from other designers. At the conclusion of this show, Belgium designer Walter Van Beirendonck accused Abloh of copying his animal-on-suit inspiration, with Abloh insisting the inspiration came from a 2005 Louis Vuitton show that also incorporated such adornments. The battle is uphill and unrelenting for Abloh, who, as one of the first Black men to helm a global luxury label, has been a frequent target of criticism and backlash.
The overall takeaway from Shanghai was joy. Abloh produced a colorful, buoyant, youthful, and marketable collection while drawing inspiration from a worldwide assemblage of Black artists, incorporating up-cycled pieces into a new collection, and once again taking on the world with the air of optimism reserved only for those who truly believe in themselves and their abilities.
Written by Elizabeth Kramsky