On An Up

Louis Vuitton, it seems, is not leaving the Virgil Abloh era. Yet

That the late Virgil Abloh left his mark at Louis Vuitton is possibly understating it. So indelible it was and so successful the Abloh years were that LV probably now sees no reason to give their men’s line a major aesthetical shift. Mr Abloh was the guy LV was waiting for, but he left the world too soon. And LV was sure that you feel that too. If you have not, now is not too late. The autumn/winter 2023 show looked like those from the brand’s recent past, or eight of the runway presentations under Mr Abloh’s watch, neighbourhood and not. It preceded with an abstract film (those of us fixed on our screens saw that). The runway was not a linear track. Models walked past mise-en-scènes, amalgamated to be ghetto-fabulous and set up to suggest children’s (or young persons’) rooms. LV said that the collection is “imbued with the spirit of the inner child”, which is consistent with what Mr Abloh famously said, “I’m always trying to prove to my 17-year-old self that I can do creative things I thought weren’t possible.” Was his ghost present?

The show opened with the Spanish singer Rosalia (top)—togged in what could be the brand’s men’s pieces (and curiously carrying a search light when she came out), with hair that looked unwashed (or just washed?)—singing from atop a yellow automobile, it’s doors fitted with boom-box speakers. A black model was the first to emerge, as it had been with Mr Abloh’s show. Other models followed. They stopped in the rooms that were propped with LV trunks and strewn with stuffed toys (not, unlike in the past, attached to the clothes), fiddled with the miscellany, one was rummaging through clothes, another was scribbling on a wall, a pair played darts. It was stagey, contrived, but what that all really meant was not clear. It is reminiscent of Mr Abloh’s performative masculinity; it is inclusive, of course, and the Black-Americana is unmistakable. At times, we had to remind ourselves that we were watching the presentation of a French brand, shown in Paris.

The Abloh-ness is not tempered even with a new name presently linked to the collection: Colm Dillane, an LVMH prize finalist (2021) and the fellow behind the US streetwear label KidSuper (which was also showing in Paris). According to LV’s PR-speak, Mr Dillane was “embedded” in the menswear studio recently as—what everyone else called—a “guest designer”. Whether that was a temporary arrangement or preface to a permanent one, clear it was not (LV has yet to name a successor to Mr Abloh). The half Irish/half Spanish American knew he had large boots to fill and went about doing it without changing the metaphoric footwear—he kept the Abloh razzle-dazzle, showing largely roomy clothes with exaggerated silhouettes, immaculately tailored, faced with the mantle of streetwear, but without the cloak of design laziness. Mr Abloh had created a massive fan base. There was no reason for Mr Dillane to not cater to that. These were clothes—largely for play or to go on stage in—that would sit comfortably in a wardrobe already brimming with Mr Abloh’s LV RTW.

What struck us about the collection was the total lack of skirts. Did Virgil Abloh’s many versions not sell? And would LV be omitting the skirt from their offerings for men, totally? Mr Dillane did not push a gender-bending agenda; he took a more conventional route, putting out tailored-but-with-a-twist (some literally) looks or jackets made more interesting by adding zips to front seams and rear vents. The more unconventional details are the criss-crossed straps on a jacket that could be used to secure envelopes, notes and such. Talking about notes, one suit was festooned with pieces of oblong fabrics that looked like a random composition of written notes, such as those of Post-Its (but much larger) on a cork board. There were also graphics that were rather akin to those of KidSuper: patchwork leather that appeared like camouflage but showed a face, much like composite photography; large repeated patterns of blurred apples accompanied by text across the torso: “Fantastic Imagination”; and collage-y illustrations that would make Mr Abloh proud. But none more so than yet another reimagining of the Keepall, a bag that has been rejuvenated more times than any other in the LV collection. Even in death, Virgil Abloh was still gaily smiling on Louis Vuitton.

Screen grab and photos: Louis Vuitton

Tomb Paraders

Dior’s fall—pre-fall?—2023 presentation was a theatrical affair at the Great Pyramids of Giza

Dior staged their latest men’s show at an Egyptian necropolis—on the Giza Plateau, home of the three 4th-dynasty pyramids. The four-sided structure appeared in the background, their outlines illuminated by lights. Dior proudly declared that this was their first presentation in Egypt. But the Italian label Stefano Ricci beat them to it when they staged their autumn/winter 2022 collection at Luxor’s better-lit Temple of Hatshepsut, this past October, making that Egypt’s first fashion show on their arid land. Neither was Dior’s the first presentation in a desert. Back in July, Saint Laurent staged its Spring/Summer 2023 event on the Agafay desert, outside of Marrakech, with just a single man-made structure, a massive monolithic ring, for the set. And in December 2020, a womenswear spring/summer 2021 runway on a dune, somewhere in the Sahara. If not for the pyramids in the background, Dior’s show could have been on any sandy acreage.

“My interest in ancient Egypt is about the stars and the sky,” Kim Jones said about the choice of Egypt as show venue. “It’s that fascination with the ancient world and the parallels with what we look at today; what we inherited from them and what we are still learning from the past.” There is no mention of sand or sand dunes, or this famous part, west of the capital Cairo. “In both the collection and the show there is an idea of ‘guided by the stars’ and what that can entail in many ways.” The pyramids were incidental; just theatrical scenery. And as there were no mention of the land, Lawrence of Arabia (although the film referred to Syria) did not appear, except those floaty capes or headwear that are not the keffiyeh. Mr Jones likely wanted to avoid the obvious. The universe, including Dior’s, is expanding.

In fact, there is, as far as we could discern, nothing that could be linked to Egypt, not that the collection—titled Celestial— needed to be. The soundtrack of a relentless techno thump already indicated the negation of North Africa or Bedouin exotica. This is modern fashion for urbanites much further away, with concrete rather than sand underfoot. There was a street vibe, a paring down of the formality that Mr Jones had initially reintroduce to his Dior Men. These were separates, almost travelcore, for the more adventurous fashion consumers, those keen on pairing the sportif with the elegant and a touch of the camp; these were not for the likes of Zahi Hawass of his younger self. Mr Jones put aside for now literary references (not even T.E. Lawrence?) for the exploration of what’s up there. Does it not sound like now-out-of-the-picture Alessandro Michele’s Gucci Cosmogenie?

There were, of course, the prints of the universe, in colours most of us came to be aware of through the cinema. They were on pullovers, leggings, windbreakers, and other outers that happily flap in the cooperative wind. Unexpected this season were the sheer gauzy pieces that, in some, included a few very bee-keeper-looking face/head protectors. Talking about those, there were also helmets with glass face shields. No driver/rider/vehicular needs were evident. In preparation for a stand storm? And what about those openwork (featuring the Dior motif Cannage) breastplates? For the modern charioteer? This season, Mr Jones finally explored skirts for men—sort of. There were many pleated halves, worn like you would an apron, but to the side. If they were full skirts (and, especially, paired with those sporty tops), might they have reminded us of what were shown at Louis Vuitton before? Could Kim Jones be positioning himself as the next Virgil Abloh?

Screen shot (top) and photos: Dior