For his latest Louis Vuitton collection, Virgil Abloh paid tribute to the colourful history of Paris
There are few global brands so powerfully associated with their native country as Louis Vuitton: just a whisper of those two words is enough to conjure visions of the ’50s Côte d'Azur jet-set, historic ateliers that continue as hubs of traditional French craftsmanship, or epic fashion shows staged in the courtyards of the Louvre.
But since Virgil Abloh took the reins for the brand’s menswear in March of last year, the brand has developed an altogether more global outlook. Whether it’s the designer’s riffs on some of America’s most iconic pop cultural moments – from his first season that was inspired by The Wizard of Oz, to last season’s tribute to Michael Jackson’s iconic video for “Billie Jean” – or the radically revamped front row that now houses a starry line-up of hip-hop icons, Virgil has brought a much-needed injection of energy to the menswear offering of this most storied of fashion houses.
It’s a gamble that has paid off. And now, for spring/summer 2020, Virgil is finally ready to cast his eye back on the city that is now his second home: Paris. Staged in the Place Dauphine on the historic Ile de la Cité in the middle of the Seine – just a stone’s throw away from the Louis Vuitton headquarters – it was as emphatic as a statement as you could possibly get that Virgil is beginning to feel more comfortable in his new role as one of menswear’s foremost tastemakers, and ready to move into the big leagues of Parisian fashion.
And, in typically Virgil style, it was pulled off with the lightest of touches and a welcome dose of humour. Those attending were greeted by balloon sculptors, crêpe stands and even a Vuitton-branded bouncy castle, and the clothes had all the candy-coloured joie de vivre to match. Where Virgil has become closely associated with the streetwear boom that has dominated menswear for the past few years, this was his most romantic, light-hearted collection to date, with florals reinterpreted in all manner of technically mind-boggling forms.
Across a backdrop of pastel colours cut in loose, breezy shapes, the signature harness that Virgil has made the case for at Vuitton came constructed from floral bouquets, and kaleidoscopic prints of wildflowers running up the legs of silk trousers and across acid trip tie-dye sweatshirts. In another deliciously feminine touch, the show also saw the return of the skirt for men, which Nicolas Ghesquière infamously proposed with his casting of Jaden Smith in a Vuitton womenswear campaign.
But within this joyful riot of colour, there were still plenty of immediate pieces that are sure to satisfy Virgil’s rabid hypebeast fanbase. And just like his first show for Vuitton – where the runway carpet moved through the entire colour spectrum – there was a child-like wonder and innocence to his interpretation of luxury menswear. One year on from his debut show, it seems that Virgil is finally ready to embrace the city of Paris with open arms – now, let’s hope they’re equally ready to embrace him right back.