The French luxury firm Louis Vuitton paid an emotional tribute on Thursday to its artistic director Virgil Abloh, who died of cancer in November at the age of 41, just as he was finalizing his collection.
In a sky blue “dream house” built in the Carreau du Temple, one of the great Parisian public spaces, the models paraded with creations in sparkling white, stark black, fluorescent colors, for a collection that was ready “by 95%” when Abloh died of cancer, the firm explained.
At the end of the parade, the moment in which the creator comes out to say hello, about thirty of the designer’s collaborators appeared with t-shirts showing the colors of a sunset. The audience responded with cheers and tears.
Virgin Abloh, black designer, architect and DJ, conceived a runway that boldly remixed streetwear and classic cuts, kaftans and oriental-inspired djellabas. Unisex silhouettes, and even a model dressed in a veil, as if it were a bride dressed in white, about to get married.
The death of Abloh, who had broken the mold by taking over the artistic direction of the venerable Vuitton house in 2018, sent shockwaves through the fashion world, where rumors swirl about his replacement.
Louis Vuitton celebrated already on November 30 in Miami, two days after the death of the American star creator, a star-studded tribute.
Abloh fascinated the younger generations of creators in the world of music and art, especially in the United States. Rihanna, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid and Pharrell Williams were present in Miami.
In Paris, Louis Vuitton had to respond to the enormous expectation with two catwalks, also because of the anticovid rules, which force the capacity to be reduced.
“He planned everything thoroughly until the last minute,” former Louis Vuitton designer Kim Jones recalled to AFP until 2018, when Abloh replaced him.
“(Virgil and I) traveled all over the world together. I feel very lucky to have met him,” he said.
After the death of this creator, only one other black designer remains on the fashion horizon, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.
The choice of Virgin Abloh was “bold,” and choosing his successor “will also require boldness,” said Serge Carreira, a professor of political science in Paris.
Abloh did not hesitate to collaborate with Nike or other sports brands to break down barriers. “Virgil showed how you can be multidisciplinary and fearless. He was really powerful. He had an impact on so many people’s lives,” Bianca Saunders, a London-based stylist with Afro-Caribbean roots, told AFP.
Among the potential black candidates to replace Abloh are his collaborators Samuel Ross or Heron Preston, the artistic director of Reebok, Kerby Jean-Raymond, the British stylist Grace Wales Bonner or even the rapper and designer Kanye West, Abloh’s friend. .
Mention is also made of Kris van Assche, who left Berluti, or Daniel Lee, who left Bottega Veneta, as well as Riccardo Tisci (Burberry, ex-Givenchy).
“Virgil Abloh embodied diversity, he was a figure of talent promotion among creators of color. It is a symbolic issue, but the issue affects the fashion industry globally,” explained Serge Carreira.
Louis Vuitton has partnered with Sotheby’s auction house to put 200 pairs of Virgil Abloh-designed Nike “Air Force 1” sneakers up for sale for charity. The starting price is $2,000.
The profits will go to his “Post-Modern” foundation, which supports the training of designers of African-American and African origin.
Men’s Fashion Week advances in Paris with presentations of new promises, such as the British Bianca Saunders, who debuted with a collection that throws nods to optical art from the mid-20th century, or the French firm Y/Project, which ignored conventions and paraded men and women.
For Y/Project, men will wear huge, oversized suits in the fall, shading their faces in extra-long neck sweaters, while women will wear ultra-fitted T-shirts, printed to mimic their bodies.