It turns out that Virgil Abloh was absolutely serious when he predicted recently that streetwear would die. In a remarkable U-turn, the designer — who redefined luxury codes with his inclusive vision of fashion — made his fourth collection for Louis Vuitton all about the suit.
“Now that I’ve sort of made my statement about how I wanted to modernize the brand, this is more in line with speaking to the tradition,” Abloh, back from a recent three-month leave for unspecified “health considerations,” said in a preview. “No one has ever seen me do back-to-back hardcore tailoring ever, so that’s the shift.”
Guests including J Balvin, Diplo, Tyga and Migos members Quavo and Takeoff, gathered in a tent in the Tuileries Gardens painted like a cloudy sky, with a giant beanstalk running through the middle. Dotted across the Magritte-like set were oversize artisanal tools, including scissors, a pencil and a massive spool of thread.
None of these were as disconcerting as the traditional taupe tailored suit — worn with a tie, no less — that opened the show. It was followed by a brown one and a black one and a green one — a corporate parade livened up by the bags, which were rigid curved takes on classic styles like the Keepall and the Steamer.
“I’m not about rejecting the corporate system. I’m about claiming it in and twisting it,” Abloh was quoted as saying in the show notes.
He deconstructed the suit, quite literally, by carving it up into 30 separate pieces that were stitched together so subtly they appeared to float. Cutouts in the shape of the Vuitton monogram livened up a classic white cotton poplin shirt.
WATCH: Inside the Louis Vuitton Men’s Fall 2020 Show
“This is inspired by the business districts of the world, and the evolution of the male dress code for business,” Abloh explained in his studio, where the coffee table looks like a stack of dollar bills. “As a creative director at a house, which is very different from my own label, this is a unique opportunity to have a dialogue with history.”
But was he really challenging the status quo? After all, hand-painted crocodile leather and monogram shaved mink are strictly the preserve of the 1 percent. More conservative types will hardly feel bewildered by options like a calf leather suit or a sliced waistcoat worn as a cummerbund.
Meanwhile, the creatives who burst onto the luxury scene in Abloh’s wake have become a new establishment of their own. It wasn’t hard to picture J Balvin in one of the metallized mink coats, or Tyga in one of the cloud-printed outfits that closed the show (minus the metallic face plate, perhaps).
Abloh, who also this week signaled a more sophisticated direction for his Off-White brand, defended his freedom to change direction in the name of creative integrity.
“To me, I’m not on Earth to just be a one-trick pony and milk the idea and hopefully that gets a house in the Cayman Islands or something. I could care less about that aspect,” he said. “I’m not going to rest easy and just ride the wave. I want to continually reinvent myself and update as things move along.”
You might argue he’s changing the system from within.
Read more from WWD:
WATCH: NYFW Is Back on Top, Thanks to These Young Designers