Louis Vuitton, whose fall 2019 men’s wear collection drew inspiration from Michael Jackson’s pop-culture legacy, has reacted swiftly to the mounting controversy in the wake of the “Leaving Neverland” documentary.
The HBO program, which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January and aired on HBO earlier this month, spotlights two men who allege they were sexually abused as children by the “Thriller” singer.
“I am aware that in light of this documentary the show has caused emotional reactions. I strictly condemn any form of child abuse, violence or infringement against any human rights,” Virgil Abloh, men’s artistic director at Vuitton, said in a statement released exclusively to WWD on Thursday.
“We find the allegations in the documentary deeply troubling and disturbing,” added Michael Burke, Vuitton’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause.”
In the statement, Vuitton stressed that the documentary has caused the fashion house “the greatest pain.” The company also stressed that it was “unaware” of the documentary at the time of the Vuitton men’s show, which took place on Jan. 17, ahead of the Sundance screening on Jan. 25.
The controversy comes as fans of the late singer prepare to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his death in June.
Some radio stations have banned Jackson’s songs from their playlists in the wake of the new allegations, while supporters of the performer gathered outside Channel 4’s London headquarters last week to protest the broadcaster’s planned airing of the documentary.
“My intention for this show was to refer to Michael Jackson as a pop culture artist. It referred only to his public life that we all know and to his legacy that has influenced a whole generation of artists and designers,” Abloh said in Thursday’s statement.
His second collection show for Vuitton was staged in a darkened tent in the Tuileries garden of Paris, where the brand re-created a Manhattan street corner at nighttime, reminiscent of the set of Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video.
The collection included sequin-encrusted tops that nodded to Jackson’s more flamboyant stage costumes, while a T-shirt printed with an image of his loafer-clad feet and white socks paid homage to his famous dance moves. There was also a bevy of layered tailoring in shades of gray, outerwear festooned with Vuitton’s famous monogram, plus shirts, sweaters and trenchcoats with flag prints.
Vuitton said it would not produce any item “that directly features Michael Jackson elements” and assured that the collection that will ultimately reach stores, which had multiple inspirations, would “purely reflect the true values of the brand and of our artistic director.”
Vuitton is the latest brand to swiftly address controversy surrounding its products, reflecting increased pressure on luxury players in the age of social media to respond to any potential customer concerns, whether it is directly to blame for the issue or not.
Gucci last month unveiled a series of initiatives to achieve cultural diversity and awareness throughout its organization and activities globally, following accusations that its balaclava-style sweater evoked blackface.
Prada, meanwhile, said it had tapped artist and activist Theaster Gates and award-winning writer, director and producer Ava DuVernay to co-chair its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, after facing online accusations that animal-like figurines and charms in its stores and windows also evoked blackface.