With Louis Vuitton following Victoria’s Secret’s footsteps, now the guys can have theirs too
Louis Vuitton Angel versus Victoria‘s Secret Angel. Photos: Louis Vuitton and Getty Images respectively
When Louis Vuitton’s multi-flap angel wings appeared on the runway back in January, we told ourselves that LV was joking, and happily forgot about them. And then there they were again, in the “spin-off” Bangkok show two days ago. The Thai audience were totally taken by them, recognising the wings’ immensely camp value when they saw it. Some applauded: The show was, after all, appropriately taking place in the City of Angels. There were three sets of the winged outfits. The models did not look happy in them, presumably because they knew they looked ridiculous. They walked as if the flapping appendages were not part of them, and the patterned pennons were simply ridiculous. Were they heavy, we wondered.
(Among the delighted audience, chatter had emerged, prior to the show, that there was “drama mak mak“ with the casting. Non-Thai models were engaged, including some from Singapore, but work permits for them were somehow “forgotten”. The casting team “scrambled”. They had to use inexperienced local models—some of the boys had never walked on a runway before, it was shared. One chap reportedly went for the casting seven times. To make matters worse, five of the models were said to have tested positive for COVID-19 on the day of the show!)
Who‘d thought modern menswear would come to this? Victoria‘s Secret ditched their angel wings and Louis Vuitton picked them up. The lightly fluttering rear flaps left the VS catwalk for good, only it seemed, to decamp for the LV runway. While they were no longer “culturally relevant”, as the brand said last year in response to the nixing of their famed Angels, the wings have become germane to fashion for guys now. Or, is menswear so open to the unconventional that it is receptive to what women have discarded and have considered them to be nothing but the constructs of heterosexual male fantasy?
This time in Bangkok, on the slow-moving models, we did have a closer look at the wings. They looked to us more like 京剧背旗 (jingju beiqi) or the rear flags of Beijing opera costumes. These 旗装 (qizhuang) or flag costumes are usually worn by actors playing the part of military generals. The flags are attached to an armour (or coat of plates) known as the 靠 (kao); they are also called 靠旗 (kaoqi) or armour flags. Seen this way, perhaps the late Virgil Abloh intended for the models to be flagged than winged. And what—indulge us—is more masculine than the striking figure of the 战神 (zhanshen), god of war, 赵子龙 (Zhao Zilong)? Never mind that the Louis Vuitton show was no Beijing opera.