Although Virgil Abloh’s inspiration for Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2019 collection became shrouded in controversy after the release of the Michael Jackson documentary, his message still held strong, and helped carry the collection into exciting new territory. From cultural inclusivity, and success from humble beginnings, to the journey from boyhood to manhood, these are all universal themes people can relate to. This inclusivity is fully explored in Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2019 men’s collection through collages bearing flags from various countries represented in LV’s design team, including the US, Great Britain, Germany, Kazakstan, and an homage to Abloh’s home state of Indiana. The flags were treated as scarves, and used in prints, denim appliques, and a patchwork fur that also tied in seamlessly with the brands travel heritage.
One clever detail was a globe motif with Africa positioned at the front in a nod to Abloh’s own family heritage. It was a smart and effective message, and rare to see the globe represented in this way, much less admit just how euro-centric or US-centric our western expectations have become. There was also a herringbone-inspired pattern created in the shape of the continent of Africa, alluding to his own question, “what makes a man?” The answer is more than just clothing – it’s clearly heritage, experience and the journey.
The journey from boyhood to manhood was clearly on Abloh’s mind during the development of this collection. Throughout the show, there were many references to the different stages of a man’s life from playful cartoon prints to puffy jackets, experimental tie-dye and streetwear inspired denim. These were followed by tailored suiting, including a beautiful double layer jacket incorporating a blouson bomber that softly ballooned over a strictly tailored jacket.
The second part of the show illustrates a journey from humble beginnings to stardom, something Abloh drew from his love of Michael Jackson. It could just as well be autobiographical, partly explaining his own journey. A piece that speaks to this is a very humble looking gray flannel jacket anyone from the midwest would recognize. It appears at first glance to be covered in a fresh bluster of snowflakes, a common sight for anyone growing up in Illinois. But the snowflakes are actually crystals, 28,500 hand embroidered crystals in fact, making it one of the most expensive pieces of the collection, and a mega-statement on the designers own story. On one level it’s what you might call a “f*** you” piece, but on another, it actually feels like it’s really meant to highlight the beauty and pricelessness of a specific moment in life, completely non-reliant on wealth and status.
The fact that the collection paid tribute to Michael Jackson before the massive scandal hit, and STILL holds up well after significantly downplaying those direct references only proves how complex and relatable Abloh’s design language really is. All in all this was a challenging and beautifully executed collection. No doubt Louis Vuitton will benefit from such a hopeful and forward thinking designer leading the house.