Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring 2019: Virgil Abloh’s Debut Collection
When the curtains came down on Abloh’s debut collection for Louis Vuitton at Palais Royal, it revealed a radical shift in the long-time beloved menswear arm of the biggest luxury fashion brand in the world.
Not too long ago, Virgil Abloh’s name catapulted to global consciousness as rapper Kanye West’s creative director. Then, he founded his personal fashion label, Off-White rooted in streetwear, which immediately attracted a cult following of civilians and celebrities alike. While it seemed that Abloh’s business success has reached its peak, the creative designer was appointed creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear, announced earlier this year. His steady and rapid ascent to center stage was consummated on 21st June by his debut collection for the French fashion house.
Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring 2019: Virgil Abloh’s Debut Collection
In deference to brand heritage and out of respect to previous collections, it’s often natural for newly appointed creative directors to ease into their first collection – make an impact but not so hard that it tries unduly to impress; but not Virgil Abloh. The newest Louis Vuitton menswear lead designer is not shy about the streetwear muse that put him on the map and instead, was likely to address critics and cynics head-on with his blend of inspired looks – the very reason for which he was appointed. Surely enough, when the curtains came down on his highly-anticipated debut at Palais Royal in Paris, revealed a radical shift in the long-time beloved menswear arm of the biggest luxury fashion brand in the world.
For starters, Abloh brought the theme of diversity to the show, quite literally. From the choices of models to the runway and collection, the show was orchestrated to match the theme of the rainbow. People of colour predominantly filled the runway and the front row seats – including Abloh’s mentor Kanye West. Completing the retinue of observers and fashionistas, the latest creative director of Vuitton menswear invited local art students to join the crowd spanning across his gradient runway.
“Laying a foundation, that’s what this season’s about,” Abloh expressed in a statement to Vogue. “I want to speak to the generation presiding. But I also want a young generation to come in and know, hey, there’s someone here who’s listening, and speaking back to them.”
The collection itself, was predictable (Off-White influence was undeniable) as it is beautiful. Asymmetrical, boxy cuts and baggy trousers was featured in the collection. Classic Louis Vuitton bags were also given transparency or holographic treatment for an added surprise.
Virgil Abloh’s ability to bring his streetwear-infused approach to a major French fashion house built upon history and tradition, have divided the industry into two camps: Those who are loyal to Kim Jones – and those who crave a clear distinction between luxury and streetwear. And others who celebrate the bridge between both styles and aesthetics – usually millennials.
For a long time, streetwear and luxury labels spoke in different design languages. Today, the fashion industry is going through a generational shift. Millennial and Generation Z vote with their wallets and the rise of hautebeast – a portmanteau of hypebeast and haute couture, is undeniable. Virgil Abloh is very much capable of capturing the eyes, hearts and minds of this new generation with flair.
Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring 2019: Relevance Trumps Originality?
Say what you like about Abloh’s arguable “lack of originality” but Abloh’s various design references from various inspirations is very much the thesis of streetwear history, there is no doubt that he has since developed a unique signature of his own. Abloh possesses an innate ability to take various sources and through an act of creative alchemy, achieve his own formula of street-authentic desire – the very qualities needed for a successful creative director of a luxury fashion house, especially one with hautebeast aspirations.
Louis Vuitton has long catered to the streetwear market with its collaboration with Kanye West in 2009, but given Gucci’s amazing growth in the area, Louis Vuitton is doing what Louis Vuitton does best, keeping ahead of trends even if the hautebeast culture is potentially a trend. Even pre-Abloh, Louis Vuitton collaboration with streetwear juggernaut Supreme certainly cements the idea that the French maison is not content with resting on laurels.
What’s the verdict of Virgil Abloh’s most important collection thus far? Did his first luxury menswear collection meet the hype? Yes. Did it transcend in terms of expectations, raise any new benchmarks, or trigger a different thought process about the menswear market? Likely not. While Louis Vuitton’s first menswear collection head by Abloh might not be a revolutionary shift in the modern history of the maison, it does however, speak of a new direction for the luxury malletier.