The skateboard saying “Legends Never Die” is the essence of our farewell to Louis Vuitton creative director Virgil Abloh. On the 30 of November, the day before Art Basel kicked off the luxury brand brought the last collection designed by the now fashion icon to Miami. In hip hop culture style like a graffiti artist with Virgil was here. Just like any graffiti artist in NYC in the ’90s would leave their mark on a street corner of the club bathroom.
SPRING SUMMER 2022 MEN SPIN OFF SHOW
“Within my practice, I contribute to a Black canon of culture and art and its preservation. This is why, to preserve my own output, I record it at length.”
Virgil Abloh, July 2020.
When I first saw the collection I wanted so many pieces. The fluidness of the collection was made for both men and women. With skirts, jackets and hoodies anyone can wear and you want to steal from your boyfriend.
A manifesto according to Virgil Abloh Chicago, July 2020
Resurgence is the mantra of our moment in time. Carried by hope, it conveys the act of surging: rising up, uprising, progressing. Some solve crossword puzzles. Nuance is my game. The term “manifesto” comes from the Latin word for “obvious”.
Stating the obvious is not in my nature, but I am a believer in the power of documentation. As I restart my engines at Louis Vuitton and take off for a future of new possibilities, I look back at my port of departure. Under my artistic direction, I see my Louis Vuitton Men’s collections as my platform of nuance. I strive to employ fashion to reflect and affect ideals of inclusivity, unity and humanity. Through nuance, I believe in making my mark with poise, style and grace.
It’s my desire to imbue the traditional codes of luxury with my own progressive values. Nuance, like sarcasm, can be difficult to understand. Every season, my team updates The vocabulary according to Virgil Abloh: A liberal definition of terms and explanation of ideas. Under ‘I’ for ‘Irony’: “The presence of Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton.” For all intents and nuances, I have often spelt out the interceptive re- reality of myself as a black man in a French luxury house. I am well aware of my responsibilities. Rather than preaching about it, I hope to lead by example and unlock the door for future generations.
Using the language of nuance, I hope the imagery speaks for itself: Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz as an ironic parallel to my journey into the fashion establishment (and a pendant to The Wiz, which re-appropriated the film with an all-black cast); Black musical icons as humanitarians whose appeals unify race, gender, culture and creed; Flower fields as a metaphor for diversity and a symbol of traditional Parisian confection; Heaven on Earth as a surreal concept of time and progress in society. I use these images to trick the spectator’s preconceived ideas, overwrite embed- ded race associations, and tackle prejudice on a subconscious level. I would like it to serve as a Trojan horse for the mind.
On runways and in campaigns, I realise my themes in my own image: young men of colour, who, in the future, might be able to mirror themselves in the historical reflection of luxury as much as any white boy down the street. With every show, I publish a map pinning down the birthplace of each individual represented on my runway, as well as those of their parents. Models aren’t hangers, but real people with real stories. I am not into “casting” but into making spaces for those stories to be told. Through my ongoing premise of boyhood, I seek to positively influence the minds of young men of colour with im- ages of opportunity before society programmes them to think any differently.
I believe in nuance because I believe in the intelligence and per- receptiveness of my audiences. As I proceed and continue to infuse my vision with black aesthetics and inclusivity, I will never underestimate them. Through my own reality, I am interested in the reversal of the expected roles of races within society, and the discourse it creates. I am interested in contributing to the pro- gression of fashion’s relationship with labels and stereotypes: “designer” versus “image-maker”, “luxury” versus “streetwear”, or the nuanced idea of streetwear versus “streetwear” itself. In my game of inverted commas, streetwear is a community founded in the subculture, while “streetwear” is a commodity found in fashion.
Within my practice, I contribute to a black canon of culture and art and its preservation. This is why, to preserve my own output, I record it at length. I consider the Spring of 2020 to be a turning point in my tenure at Louis Vuitton. Now, my first four seasons collapse into one chapter to be recorded for the future upcycling of ideas and ethea. Whether practical or figurative, I don’t believe in obsolescence. In my new chapter at Louis Vuitton, I will introduce a number of concrete upcycling initiatives to support this principle: no season is an old season. I will continue to believe in the power of nuance to illustrate this as part of my core values.
As we collectively resurge, consider this my manifesto: as a presence of colour within the fashion establishment, I commit to in- clusivity, unity, diversity, and individuality. I will continue to employ diverse candidates, financially support BIPOC and LGBTQ+ causes, shed light on businesses owned by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals, work on public-facing initiatives that showcase BIPOC and LGBTQ+ role models, and assist organisations that promote more inclusive workforces. This is my invitation to move forward together with awareness, hope and determination. You are witnessing unapologetic Black Imagination on display.
If you made it this far, thank you for your time.
Legends never die and the good die young. This is another sad day in Fashion. Yet, happy memory to follow your dreams because life is short and sweet. Rest in Power Virgil Abloh.