Virgil Abloh has proven his ability to articulate culture through clothing many times over. He’s been doing it with OFF-WHITE since its inception in 2014, and through various projects with brands and establishments like Nike, Colette, Chrome Hearts, Rimowa, Byredo, Ikea, and Gagosian. In addition to his role as creative director, designer, and DJ, Abloh is also an advocate of, and has created collections for, an array of organizations like amfAR, FAMILY, and Cycle for Survival.
Last week, however, he elevated the translation of current culture in the most monumental way yet as the new creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s collections. The house’s “We Are The World” Spring/Summer 2019 presentation in Paris was held at the Jardin du Palais Royal. There, a rainbow runway sat between trimmed trees and corresponding color t-shirts place-holding guests’ seats. “Like some kids today, I started the surreal mission without ‘fashion school’ but a blank t-shirt, a screen-printed idea for it, and a dream,” he said on his Instagram account, captioning the photo of said t-shirt. It was a nod to his first days with the house, “once I learned how to use the photocopier in the office.”
That was all complemented by “The Vocabulary According to Virgil Abloh.” First was “#3,” stating that 3% is “the exact ratio needed to twist a normative object into something special.” The runway set and the entire collection had this twist, with some pieces largely derived from the house’s icons but with this methodology. “A” was assigned to “accessomorphosis,” describing the transformation of an accessory into a garment; “B” was a short biography of Abloh; C stood for collar; and so on. The guide served as reasoning for nearly all of Abloh’s decisions that followed.
When the colorful show began with music by BADBADNOTGOOD, guests got a wind of this heightened 3% notion. Formal staples to the house, from all departments, were seen with contemporary twists. The Keepall bag was in an array of styles, like an all-white one, and transparent ones in bold colors like blue, green, and red—all with chain links connected to the strap clasps and dangling to the ground. Sneakers were reimagined with neon laces and large bottom treads. Gloves featured Abloh’s signature inside-out approach with iconography and lettering typically seen inside, outside and on top of the hand. And much of the new attire featured zip compartments built into its outer structure, acting as a handbag or a wallet the wearer won’t have to carry.
Arguably though, the largest thread throughout the collection was what stood for the letter “O”—Oz. Seemingly borrowed from The Wizard of Oz, vibrant colors set the stage and struck the collection with a long-lasting impression. Dorothy made an appearance as a charm on a bracelet, lost in a field of poppies on a jacket, and seen as a silhouette with her cast partners like the Tin Man on a hand-knitted and embroidered crew neck jumper. As the show progressed, the new line intensified—at first a white palette, at last a silver leather rain poncho with The Wizard of Oz beaded patches, paired with an iridescent Keepall bag.
Mixed in, however still standing out, was also an array of thoughtfully tie-dyed garments—the white and desert sage tie-dye mink fur scarf paired with new green LV Skate sneakers; and the all-over white and desert sage tie-dye jacquard mohair jumper paired with two-pleat leather pants in the same colorway. With each bold look, we saw Abloh’s expressive and technical vision exemplified in the letter F of his vocabulary, “fandom”—a two-way worship between a designer and his clientele.