Eric Randolph and Olga Nedbaeva (Agence France-Presse)
Fri, January 21, 2022
There were tears on the catwalk on Thursday as the latest Louis Vuitton show by American designer Virgil Abloh, whose death shocked the industry last year, drew rapturous applause at Paris Fashion Week.
The multi-talented DJ, architect and designer died in November aged 41 following a private battle with cancer.
A close collaborator of Kanye West, Abloh was the first African American to be named creative director of a major French fashion house and brought streetwear and a less elite approach to the world of luxury.
His latest menswear show was built around an elaborate “Dreamhouse” concept featuring angels and elaborately dressed breakdancing models.
There was a typical mix of street and high style with skirts, laces and heels, and even an outfit that evoked a wedding dress topped with a cap, showing her disregard for gender boundaries.
“I don’t believe in genre, I believe in design,” Abloh said in the show’s notes.
In the finale, when the creator traditionally bows, his team emerged instead, bringing the audience to their feet, many of whom have tears in their eyes.
‘Such a waste’
Dior designer Kim Jones has paid tribute to the man who replaced him at the head of Louis Vuitton in 2018.
“It’s going to be very emotional,” Jones said before the show.
“[Virgil and I] traveled the world together. I feel very lucky to have known him. It’s such a waste to think about what he would have done.
“He planned everything so perfectly until the last minute. You have to congratulate him, he was so brave,” added Jones.
Louis Vuitton said the final collection was 95% ready at the time of Abloh’s death. This allowed the company to find a replacement for the coveted position, although Abloh’s credibility was not easy to match.
“It’s a choice that requires boldness, just as Virgil’s choice was bold,” said Serge Carreira, a fashion specialist at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris.
Abloh, who ran his hugely popular Off-White brand before joining Louis Vuitton, was one of the pioneers of brand collaborations, partnering with Nike, Evian and IKEA.
Bianca Saunders, a rising black British designer who presented her first show at Paris Fashion Week on Wednesday, told AFP: “What Virgil has given a lot of people is showing them how to be multidisciplinary and not not be afraid to create whatever you wanted.
“It was really powerful. He impacted so many people’s lives and when I met him he was such a nice person.”
Among the many candidates expected to fill Abloh’s shoes are former collaborators Samuel Ross and Heron Preston, Reebok designer Kerby Jean-Raymond and British creative director Grace Wales Bonner.
Kanye’s name has also been in the mix.
Louis Vuitton is auctioning 200 pairs of Nike Air Force 1 sneakers designed by Abloh with a starting price of US$2,000.
The money will go to her post-modern foundation, which sponsors fashion students of African and African-American descent.