Louis Vuitton: In every Dreamhouse a heartache at Virgil Abloh final show
They bid farewell to Virgil Abloh on a Louis Vuitton catwalk Thursday in Paris, where his studio team took an extended bow at the finale of a show built around a Mayan blue set dubbed the "Louis Dreamhouse".
Parkour athletes and gymnasts; break dancers and mimes and a 20-piece orchestra called Chineke, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, performing a score inspired by conversations with Abloh. This was his last collection for Vuitton.
At the finale, the entire audience of some 400 rising in applause to the American designer who died on November 28, aged 41, after a long illness, whose gravity was kept secret until he passed.
“Within my practice, I contribute to a Black Canon of culture and art and its preservation. This is why, to preserve my own output, I record it at length,” read an Abloh statement from 2020, contained within an extensive program booklet. It also included an octology – or summary of his eight Vuitton shows - according to Virgil Abloh; a collection of motifs and details; a design manifesto; an upcycling ideology; a vocabulary according to Virgil Abloh and a run of show. Besides being industrious, Virgil was also a loquacious chap.
Even before the first model had appeared on the runway, a trio of parkours kids were staging gravity-defying stunts on top of multiple stairways worthy of a Giorgio De Chirico oil painting. And doing so in uncanny slow motion.
Surrealism was the leitmotif of the show, from the De Chirico architectural dreams to the elegiac images from Impressionist painter Gustave Courbet, both of which were used as prints on frock coats and redingotes. Abloh was never afraid to lift ideas from other sources even if he always gave them his luxury street twist.
Throughout, his cast of 67 sauntered and mimed and moon-walked around the ginormous set inside the Carreau du Temple, a looming late 19th-century market built of wrought iron and glass. A mix of sunken prairie, clinker-built wooden home; a rural guest-house and an enormous dinner table – all in Mayan blue – around which the orchestra sat. All witnessed by a front-row that included Vuitton patron Bernard Arnault and most of his children; along with a nomenklatura of black artists and musicians.
Opening unexpectedly in black – with a sober black suit and followed by a youth in an undertaker’s coat, clutching a bunch of fabric flowers wrapped in newspaper. Almost as if in a counter blast to those who labeled him as a mere luxury streetwear maker, Abloh sent out multi examples of crisp tailoring.
“’Streetwear’ is the most misused term of the fashion decade. Streetwear is a community, ‘streetwear’ is a commodity,” harrumphed Alboh in his show program.
Though the heart of this show were the naïve, childlike cartoon characters that kept appearing on rockstar red-carpet clobber – angry Grim Reapers, wacky wizards, incensed bumble bees and Top Cat with a hobo’s sack. Flying over track suits; oversized nylon raincoats; varsity jackets; or monogram denim jackets.
Before the whole event went into overdrive and three angels in mixes of ecru, putty and white, appeared in priestly garb, soutanes and monastic gear - giant lace wings sprouting from their shoulders. A sense of fashion paradise on earth, and of cherubim meeting the designer.
Which is when his studio staff of some 30 appeared, each wearing the sunset colors of the invitation and the number '8', to signify the eight shows he ended up staging for Vuitton. Applauding their departed designer, tears in their eyes, embracing the cast members, though never quite sure what to do or where to turn.
Saying their final adieu to Virgil Abloh. Gone but not forgotten.
In every Dreamhouse a heartache.
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