Here’s what happened at Virgil Abloh’s last Louis Vuitton show in Miami
The presentation, which was planned ahead of the designer’s sudden death, was a celebration of his life and legacy.
Before he died, Virgil Abloh had planned to stage a Louis Vuitton show in Miami. Described as a ‘spin-off’ show, it featured the designer’s SS22 collection with a handful of additional looks created especially for the show. Initially intended as a client-facing event to coincide with Art Basel Miami, the news of Virgil’s sudden passing shifted the intention of the event. Upon his wishes, the show went ahead, with his community of friends, collaborators and colleagues coming together in the Maritime Marina to pay tribute to the life and legacy of one of fashion’s contemporary greats. Here’s everything you need to know.
Virgil’s voice opened the show
After guests arrived by LV-monogrammed speedboats, the tree-filled show space housed a maze of benches. A giant statue of Virgil, which he had commissioned himself, greeted guests. The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” played as guests arrived, followed by a message from Virgil as the show started. “I’ve been on this focus, in terms of my art and creativity, of getting adults to behave like children again,” he said. “That they go back into this sense of wonderment. They stop using their minds and start using their imagination.”
The audience was a mix of Virgil’s community
There were plenty of stars in attendance — Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, North West, Pharrell Williams, and Bella Hadid to name a few — but the audience also comprised people who Virgil supported and worked with throughout his career. Many of them were young fashion creatives, like Luka Sabbat, Kerby Jean-Raymond, and A-Cold-Wall*’s Samuel Ross, who began his career assisting Virgil, as well as longtime collaborators such as Tremaine Emory and Silvia Venturini Fendi, who Virgil interned for alongside Kanye. Rappers including Gunna, 21 Savage, Lil Baby and Metro Boomin were also there to watch. Offset, Quavo and Kid Cudi walked in the show, with the latter also performing at the after-party alongside Erykah Badu. The Arnault family, who own Louis Vuitton, were also there in full force, flying out at the last minute.
The collection is one of Virgil’s last
The 82 looks highlighted shown were a combination of the SS22 collection that was released via a film back in June — as well as a handful of tailored grey suits. At the time, Virgil spoke of how the collection was one of his most personal yet, exploring the birth of rave culture and the intricate history of the “Amen Break”, one of the most sampled pieces of music in history. Rave-inspired sportswear, jackets made from 90s Metalheadz flyers, holographic accessories and psychedelic tie-dye hoodies in day-glo neon were followed by the specially-created grey tailoring, demonstrating the range of the late designer. The show was styled by Ib Kamara, who alongside Louis Vuitton’s design team, took a bow to a standing ovation at the end of the show. It was an emotional moment for all, which culminated in a moment of silence.
Louis Vuitton’s CEO gave a speech
Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s CEO, opened the show with a heartfelt speech. "As a devoted supporter of his community through his charities and passions, [Virgil] was an eternal optimist who believed anything was possible," said Michael, who first met Virgil 15 years ago in Tokyo and considered him a “son”. "In this same spirit, we at Louis Vuitton will proudly continue to celebrate his legacy with a final show in Miami, per his wishes."
He continued: “The deeply moving show we are about to see is born out of an idea Virgil and I first discussed three years ago. It is based around the traditional coming-of-age narrative, but of course, being Virgil, he spun and recontextualized the concept for the 21st century, and in doing so expressed his own unique talents and vision. This idea of coming of age was important to Virgil because inspiring and empowering younger generations defined who he was. He used the platform he had to break boundaries, to open doors, to shed light on his creative passions, art, design, music, and of course, fashion, so that everybody could see inside – not only to dream of being part of that world, but to also find ways to make that dream a reality.”
A dazzling light display closed the show
To finish, a drone-choreographed light display in the night sky animated a paper plane darting into the beyond before spelling out “Virgil was here”. Fireworks erupted – reasserting the notion that the show was a celebratory tribute – while the LV-branded red hot air balloon that featured in teasers for the show was on standby, echoing the theme of flight and childlike wonder.
In Virgil’s own words…
Before he died, Virgil took part in a Q&A about the show and his decision to stage it in Miami. Here’s what he said.
Why are you doing a Spring-Summer 2022 Spin-Off show?
More than a spin-off, this show is part of the collection arc that continues to shape and evolve the Louis Vuitton men’s realm. The pandemic pushed us to adapt our story-telling through new formats, from films to destination shows. This collection is an ongoing tale originally told through film, on which we’re now elaborating on a runway. We’re not simply adding more looks but creating a physical frame, which both reiterates and cultivates the overall context that began with Collection 1 three years ago.
How would you describe the show?
The collection is founded in a desire to erase the unconscious biases connected with certain dress codes based on the way society programmes us to think growing up. We’re framing that premise in symbolism native to the idea of boyhood, an ideology that continues to be part of the Louis Vuitton men’s practice. Recurring elements like paper planes and hot air balloons pertain to this notion: the unspoiled imagination of a child, who dreams of flying. It’s a metaphor for possibility and open-mindedness, and our need to reconnect with those instincts on a big scale.
Why did you want to show in Miami?
In many ways, Miami is the metropolification of the foundations of the Louis Vuitton men’s sphere. It’s a place constructed on cross-culturalism where diversity and individuality thrive, and where style is as present on the street as it is on the architectural horizon. On a world scale, Miami’s Design District is a true gem: a one-of-a-kind destination that enlightens and inspires, and imprints itself in your memory. There’s an uplifting atmosphere in Miami, which feels right for this show.
What does Miami mean to you?
Because of its cross-cultural character, Miami has a special place in the consciousness of style and fashion. Take, for instance, the Cuban link chain, which is a cornerstone in the Louis Vuitton men’s jewellery. It originated in the Cuban-influenced style culture of Miami, but became an emblem of a metonymic era of hip-hop. That discourse is pertinent to the magic of Miami, and also to our work. It’s a place of possibility, and an appropriate destination for our first US men’s store.
Photography Amari Arrindell