In the Thai capital, Louis Vuitton’s “spin-off” show reminded many in Asia the greatness—and overkill— of the late Virgil Abloh
It did not rain. Fon mai tok! Louis Vuitton was blessed with dry weather in Bangkok this evening. The Thai capital played host to the brand’s “spin-off” of the Virgil Abloh-helmed autumn/winter 2022 collection, The ∞th Field. This is the second full-season LV show in Southeast Asia. The last was the women’s spring/summer 2021 presentation, staged here in March last year, when, to the dismay of LV, it rained, or, to be more precise, it poured. The Bangkok show was a belated one. Last year’s wet SG affair was, reportedly, supposed to have taken place in krungthep, but our island became the substitute when the COVID and political situations in the City of Angels were not conducive to an IRL show of a French luxury brand. So it’s back to tuk-tuk land, where, this evening, the weather was 28 degrees Celsius, but, according to Accuweather, felt like 33. In this heat, but in air-conditioned interiors, the models donned layered winter wear, so did the guests. But, do not tell the local attendees that there is no winter in their country. The Thais will disagree, vehemently.
The show was staged at Icon Siam, the massive shopping complex across the Chaopraya River from downtown Bangkok, and livestreamed from there. Louis Vuitton has a store here, so it it not surprising that the presentation was sited in the building. Some industry observers had hoped that, with LVMH brands showing in far-flung places this past month (read: cruise), a more local audience might lead to a less problematic carbon footprint for the luxury group. Sure, the usual Thai actors (Metawin “Win” Opas-iamkajorn, Mario Maurer and Pakorn “Boy” Chatborirak, who appeared in the just-concluded TV series on Channel U, Barm Ayuttitham [or Eternal]) and model/actresses (Urassaya “Yaya” Sperbund and Araya “Chompoo” Hargate) were there, together with the usual bedecked hi-so fashion event regulars. But a show in Bangkok must at least be a regional event. So stars from neighbouring lands were invited too. Sighted were the Filipino model/influencer LA Aguinaldo and Singaporean show producer Daniel Boey and the Mediacorp artiste Desmond Tan, but it was the recently-out-of-the-army Korean actor Park Bo-gum (of Love in the Moonlight fame) who made the most watched and cheered entry as he was escorted into the show venue, the mall’s cavernous Suralai Hall.
Like most Virgil Abloh presentations of the past years, the show began with a filmic introduction, this time shot in Thailand by filmmaker Sivaroj “Karn” Kongsakul (of the award-winning 2010 feature Eternity). While the presentation unfolded in the gleaming Icon Siam, dubbed “The Pinnacle” of the city, the short (not costumed by LV) was filmed in a beach-side community with a boy lead that regular Bangkokians will likely call baan nok (country folk). While it hints at the obscure—even pretentious—themes of the version that went with the original Paris show (which the brand says “consolidates the eight-season arc Virgil Abloh created for Louis Vuitton), it was oddly grassroots in its delineation of a boy with dreams. Was this deliberately playing up Thailand’s less-developed aspects, no doubt qualities that lure tourists, who the country now desperately needs? An earlier video teaser shared on social media to publicise the show saw gaily-lit tuk-tuks race through the city’s Yaowarat (or Chinatown)—further exoticising Bangok’s old-world appeal?
This was yet another posthumous tribute, just as last year’s Miami show was, and the many more since—protracting his association with the brand without, perhaps, needing to remunerate the man. Similar to the American event (the first on Mr Abloh’s home ground), it was not a total facsimile of what was seen in Paris four months earlier. Mr Abloh, to his fans, has never brought the world unturned to LV. To underscore how upside down he has made of the house, the Louis Dreamhouse², a surprisingly simple abode of the designer’s imagination to accommodate his fantasies, was erected—actually, hung—from the floor, up. Previously, only the gabled red roof was visible. The models walked out (not danced) from a cave-like opening and onto what seemed like some kind of train track (toy?). This show was far more immersive as a visual treat, with its immense set and movable prop, than the show here, where there was truly nothing at the ArtScience Museum to enthrall, except the downpour.
Louis Vuitton announced earlier that the Bangkok show would feature “unseen” looks. Whether these were omitted in the January Paris reveal to be saved for this evening’s presentation, it was not made known. There were supposed to be nine of them, but it was near impossible to know which ones were the hitherto unrevealed among those already shown if one does not have the habit of committing to memory every single piece of an extensively merchandised collection. By now, Mr Abloh’s pastiche of high and low, the frilly and the plain, elegant and sporty, masculine and feminine, costume-y and elemental, Black and not is so familiar that it would be unfair to test the show goers’ power of recall to suss out the previously not shown. The audience seemed more amazed by the angel multi-wings than anything as prosaic as mere clothes. Bangkokians love spectacles on the runway. It is uncertain if the inclusion of these nine not-yet-seen and not-identified looks would make any difference to the impact of the show.
LV’s golden goose Virgil Abloh has a huge fan base and it is understandable that those who adore his work would want to continue to wallow in his prolific output that sometimes flutters rather closely to visual clutter. But how long more will Louis Vuitton keep his name so alive, so in conversations, and definitely so in shows? Six months after his death, he is still so visibly and splashily honoured. If fashion is urgently about the next, why is LV still hanging on to the before? In times of shrinking trend cycles, some of us are truly ready to move on, khob khun, krab.
Additional reporting: Nah Kwamsook. Screen shots: louisvuitton/YouTube