A Tallahassee-based marching band parade and performance by Kendrick Lamar set the tone for an imaginative Louis Vuitton show created by the men’s studio in the spirit of Virgil Abloh. Here, everything you need to know about the rainbow spring/summer 2023 presentation.
The show was created by the Louis Vuitton design studio
A magnified kids’ racetrack swirled its way around the Carré du Louvre for a Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2023 show that felt like no other. Painted like the Yellow Brick Road, it was an homage to the theme of Virgil Abloh’s Wizard of Oz-inspired first collection for the house in June 2018. Since his death in November last year, the design team and creative collaborators who were in daily contact with him through eight seasons have been trying to come to terms with the loss of a genius, who wasn’t just their boss but their friend. Abloh was a master at putting people together and creating dynamics, and he loved his team. I know this because I’ve worked on that team since he first joined LV, and experienced the making of every show including this. Ultimately, the creative process of this studio-designed collection became a kind of therapy for everyone involved: a collective, cathartic exercise that felt healing.
It was in the spirit of Virgil Abloh
Contrary to January’s collection, which was almost finished when Abloh died, this season was entirely designed by the LV men’s studio. Some of them were already there when he arrived, others were hired by him, but they all share the massive influence Abloh had on every creative around him – aesthetically as well as philosophically. That’s why this collection was entirely in his spirit: an exploration of the imaginative, childlike and culturally significant codes he instilled at LV, and a demonstration of the creatorship, craftsmanship and showmanship that were already a major part of the house’s genetics before his arrival – and which inspired him so much. Much of Abloh’s practice was about claiming those ideas for groups of society, who hadn’t historically felt included in high fashion. Everything about this show demonstrated his success in doing so: how he inspired the people around him to do the same, changed the fashion industry forever, and opened the doors for future generations.
It featured pageantry and a performance by Kendrick Lamar
The show opened with a cinematic prelude by the American director Ephraim Asili, which explored the idea of turning imagination into reality through music. Gradually, its imagery began to come alive on the yellow racetrack runway: dancing flag-bearers heralded The Marching 100, the Tallahassee-based marching band, who put on a hugely uplifting parade that segued into a live set by Kendrick Lamar, who performed from his seat. “Long live Virgil,” he said, over and over again, but this never became a mournful show. Rather, Collection ∞ – as it was called – was a celebration of the proverbial graffiti Abloh has left on the walls of LV for infinity. Next to the racetrack, the house had erected massive bleachers and invited students from schools in Paris to watch the show. At the end, models carried a mile-long rainbow flag down the runway as a reference to the rainbow catwalk of Abloh’s first LV show.
The collection was childlike by way of superior craftsmanship
Expressed in a silhouette that played with the childlike idea of growing into and outgrowing clothes – with nods to the dress codes of the 1990s skater community – the collection was a powerful demonstration of the craftsmanship at the heart of LV. Ingenious creations included two “SpeakerMen” looks made up of real loudspeakers that connected wirelessly to the show’s sound system, a monogram briefcase carved entirely in marble and lit up from within, and a formal suit ornamented with “paper planes” in origami leather as a nod to one of Abloh’s favourite childhood symbols. The multi-pocketing “accessomorphosis” that’s now a part of the LV genetics appeared in supersized primary colours on shearling coats, while impressionist floral fields were evoked in garments through jacquards, prints and embroidery. References to playdough and kids’ building blocks appeared throughout the show, in bags and as embellishments on accessories and a blown-up sneaker called Le Boyhood.
It was about human value
Over the past months, rumours have been swirling as to who might follow in Abloh’s footsteps as the next men’s artistic director of Louis Vuitton. The focus on name designers is inevitable in fashion, but as a symbol of the grace period given to Abloh’s memory, this show was about paying respect to all the people whose group efforts, talent and ideas give life to the collections we celebrate every season, and whose faces and names we don’t normally get to see on a runway. When the design team emerged to take their bow after the finale, it was a poignant reminder of the human value behind a brand like LV: all the individuals who make up a grande maison and the number of minds and hands and feelings it takes to create a show like this.
This article was originally published on Vogue UK.