virgil abloh turned paris into a magical playground
As the Place Dauphine turned into a street party complete with an LV-branded bouncy castle, we were able to see a world of wonder through Virgil's eyes.
It’s been a year since Virgil Abloh debuted his new vision for Louis Vuitton. He turned the Palais-Royale into a rainbow-hued catwalk, where 2000 guests -- 600 of which were invited students from fashion, art, design and architecture colleges --- watched a diverse cast of 56 models walk luxury into a new world. His second show was about finding hope, diversity and beauty in the world we live in. 12 months on and the Chicago-born creative director is sticking to his message.
“I stand for diversity and the idea that luxury can be something wider in this era,” Virgil explained yesterday. “I’m going to continue down that line, and continue this feeling of the whole freedom of being a child, still learning.” As the designer continually challenges himself by dancing between disciplines and blurring boundaries by moving from fashion to art and from furniture to music, his desire to learn has long been apparent. Virgil's childlike naivety is authentic. His energy infectious. For spring/summer 20, we were able to see this world of wonder through his eyes.
This feeling of wonder included by a hint at loss. “Picture a garden filled with just one type of flower, a sunrise without sunshine, or a skyline suddenly missing its age-old spire,” the show notes advised. “Familiarity can programme the mind to take the most epic things for granted." The missing spire is in reference to the Notre Dame, in front of which Virgil had originally planned to stage the show.
“When the spire fell, I was struck with this idea of celebrating what’s here while we’re here,” Virgil explained. “You might walk by the Louvre every day, you might walk by Notre Dame, you might walk by the Eiffel Tower and be like, I’m too busy to go see this, but when it’s gone, you’re emotionally struck by this,” he said in a preview. When our newsfeeds were filled footage of the fire, there was a collective outpouring of sorrow because of this very reason. So, for spring/summer 20, Virgil invited us to stop and smell the roses, to appreciate the world around us. It was also an encouragement to unleash our inner child. He wanted us to see the world through the filter of youthful wonder. The mundanity of everyday life became instantly fantastical.
Throughout the show, we were reminded of the famous Pablo Picasso quote: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” This was Peter Pan, but make it fashion. For this season’s invitation, Virgil sent a Louis Vuitton kite-making kit. Now, I can’t remember the last time I flew a kite but who wouldn’t want to fly an LV-monogrammed one? For the show itself, instead of the Notre Dame backdrop, Louis Vuitton transformed the picture-postcard setting of the Place Dauphine into a street party complete with an LV-branded bouncy castle, alongside crêpe stands, ice cream vendors, balloon makers and bubble blowers.
The fashion set took their seats outside various cafes with LV-monogrammed flags in hand, as the A-list -- which included Frank Ocean, Sketpa, Gigi Hadid and more -- sat astride oversized LV-monogrammed benches, with their feet dangling off of the ground like children. “Youth is global,” Virgil explained in his spring/summer 20 version of The Vocabulary According To Virgil Abloh, “we are all one, we are the world.”
His expressive collection echoed this childlike sense of whimsy, as it playfully moved through fluid tailoring, floral fascinations and technical transformations. After his debut, Virgil explained that 3% is the ratio needed to twist a normative object into something special. Here, the percentage was pushed as he coined the term 'peekamorphosis' to denote the playful nature of veiled elements that were hidden throughout the collection.
Keen to carefully observe the world around him, Virgil honed in one of fashion’s most ubiquitous motifs, flowers. “They are multi-faceted, free in expression, movement and metamorphosis,” the show notes detailed. “I’m keen on using flowers as a metaphor for diversity,” Abloh explained in the preview. “When you go to a field, it looks amazing and beautiful from a micro level and a macro level. How does that look beautiful?” From the rose-hued sensual suiting through to the botanical prints and wild flower weaved accessories, Virgil Abloh’s garden was in full bloom. It was at its most powerful when he returned to the very first piece that he designed for the house -- a harness, later famously worn by Timothée Chalamet at the Golden Globes -- and covered it in blooms. Who will be the first to wear this on the Red Carpet? “Not every flower is the same,” he explained. Nor is every man.
“The idea of modernity speaks to my beliefs about inclusivity and being open-minded and respectful to people from all walks of life,” Virgil explained in i-D’s The Homegrown Issue. “That is at the heart of what I am pursuing in my own work. In this position, at this brand, there is a responsibility to represent what society could be.”
So, this was a collection that offered everything from “Streetwear, II” for everyday ease -- including binary blurring silk skirts -- to transformative tailoring that allowed pieces to be worn free from their linings, to inflatable bags. Fittingly, LA-based artist Delfin Finley closed the show in a monogrammed box kite. Anything is possible.
Or as Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin tweeted after he made his catwalk debut in a fuscia leather hoodie: “Don't let them tell you, it's not possible.”
Photography Mitchell Sams
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.