Fashion says goodbye to Virgil Abloh | People

A huge hot air balloon presided over Virgil Abloh's posthumous collection for Louis Vuitton in Miami on November 30.  In the image, a still from the video presenting the parade.
A huge hot air balloon presided over Virgil Abloh’s posthumous collection for Louis Vuitton in Miami on November 30. In the image, a still from the video presenting the parade.Louis Vuitton

The farewell from the fashion world to designer Virgil Abloh, who died of cancer at the age of 41 on November 28, has had an imposing setting: a floating platform on the water in front of the stands of the Miami Marine Stadium, in Miami (Florida ). There, in an artificial birch forest, a parade was held this Tuesday to present an expanded version of the spring / summer 2022 collection of Louis Vuitton’s men’s line, led by the American since 2018. The event, scheduled for months. by House French, has become a posthumous tribute to Abloh’s legacy, recognized by the industry as one of the most defining names in fashion of the last decade.

On an imposing night catwalk crowded with the public and in front of a red hot air balloon intermittently illuminated by a burner whose flashes seemed to evoke the image of a beating heart, the event was broadcast live on the brand’s digital platforms and was attended by from friends of the house, from Kim Kardashian to Luka Sabbat. The title of the collection, Virgil was here, It can be read as an evocation of graffiti and urban art –stating one’s presence through an inscription or signature–, but also as an allusion to the mark that Abloh has left on the French house and recent fashion.

Virgil Abloh did not conceive of what has long been his posthumous parade as a steering wheel. For the American, the collection responded to the format of spin–off that House French had been practicing since 2019, in an attempt to bring her shows to the public of her main markets, mainly Asians. Yesterday, in addition to coinciding with the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair, was to serve as a claim for the opening of the first Louis Vuitton store dedicated to men’s collections on American soil. So right from the start, this collection was supposed to be a kind of quiet evolution, with ten new models added to the main collection presented last summer,

When Louis Vuitton announced this new fashion show format spin–off, He did it with the idea of ​​underlining the gradual evolution of his fashion proposal. “Each parade has an intimate relationship with its predecessor and heralds the next one. A spin–off it builds on the previous show and reinforces it, ”Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton President and CEO, told WWD this November. For Burke, the key to these collections is to reinforce the distinctive elements of each brand and work on them, “giving more value to the garments that customers already have in their wardrobe.” The other objective, Burke told the prestigious American media, was to boost sales. As he confessed, these actions usually generate a 10% increase in the volume of business in the country where they are held.

However, all this has been overshadowed in Miami by the sudden and unexpected death of Abloh, which has thrown a melancholy veil over the event. Fashion, a creative language inextricably linked to the celebration of the present and the glorification of the moment, is elegiac almost by nature. And, when death crosses his path, all its elements are susceptible to resignification. It is inevitable, for example, to read in an emotional key the story that Abloh used last summer to back up the collection, and that tells the story of a father who guides his son on an initiatory journey where both learn to overcome difficulties. Or interpret in a symbolic key the short film that preceded the parade, in which a child rides a bicycle through a deserted Miami before embarking on the same hot air balloon that has presided over the presentation of the collection.

This story, however, was already present in the first collections that Abloh presented for Louis Vuitton. The work of the founder of Off – White in House french has been through the leit motif of childhood, maturation, growth and ethics in the context of black communities in the US This was explained by Burke in a statement released shortly before the parade. “As a devoted ally of your community through your charitable endeavors and passions, [Virgil Abloh] he was an eternal optimist who believed that anything was possible ”, he declared.

Equally recognizable are the aesthetic codes displayed in this collection. For example, his suits, whose fluid and generous proportions refer to those of the tracksuit. Or its graphic language: both in Vuitton and Off-White, Abloh has been able to stamp logos, geometric motifs and ideograms in high contrast on the fabric, turning the garments into communicative supports as effective as a brochure, a banner or a digital screen. Also unmistakable are its electric and fluorescent colors, its technical borrowings – for example, transparent plastic-look fabrics superimposed on the garments – its hybrid garments full of pockets, zippers and lapels and, above all, its fabulous textile trompe l’oeil in which the Leather aspires to look like vinyl and silk takes on the appearance of plastic or polyester from a distance. If for decades fashion has aspired to replicate the look of luxurious textures with affordable materials, Abloh knew how to see that the novelty lay in doing just the opposite. And that song of love for technology and pop, that game of contrasts capable of introducing hip hop colors into Louis Vuitton’s solemn checkerboard print, is at the base of Abloh’s master formula, an expert in creating paradoxical objects of desire. .

The parade held in Miami has been the most visible tribute to the figure of the American, but not the only one. Since the news of his death was spread, there is no relevant figure or brand in the luxury industry that has not shown their respect and expressed their condolences through social networks and official statements. And the delivery of the Fashion Awards in London, last Monday, became a vindication of Abloh’s legacy by winners – such as Kim Jones, his predecessor at Vuitton – and guest stars such as Idris Elba, host of the event. Beyond his achievements as a designer, one of Abloh’s great talents consisted in bringing together relevant and significant figures from all areas, from sports to politics, social networks or music. Last summer, when he first presented the collection that has now been shown in Miami, the designer declared that his work was a reflection on the cultural mechanism of transmission, “the act of passing something from one person to another, activating waves of change between generations and impacting the lives of others ”. In view of the wave of emotion aroused by this posthumous parade in Miami, this statement can be applied to the whole of his work.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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