Virgil Abloh: a dream-maker’s legacy

Sometimes, when the architecture of your surroundings feels hostile, the architecture of the mind can save you, said the polymath. A tribute to his last collection.

by Virginia CucchiPublished on : Apr 22, 2022

A cinematic prologue, directed by Caleb Femi, introduces 𝓛𝓸𝓾𝓲𝓼 Dreamhouse™, the grand finale conceived for the presentation of Louis Vuitton's Autumn Winter 2022 menswear, last collection designed by the visionary and creative director, Virgil Abloh. The scene frames a young man admiring a prestigious, old palace, enthralled by the magnificent facade. He progressively moves towards this mesmerising vision, a door unexpectedly opens and we find ourselves transported into the reminiscence of the legendary fashion mansion, full of rooms, each hidden with its own universe, full of potential. We observe a man on top of a ladder, who looks at us with a broader perspective, cultivating and watering a large floating cloud, the ever-expanding dreamscape of Abloh.

The oneiric, metaphysical atmosphere shrouded in an impalpable veil of dimmed grey tone reveals the vivid, unbridled imagination of this talented African-American artist, architect and engineer who, taking for the first time the men’s wear helm of one of the most important luxury brand, was able to fulfill a dream, becoming a reference point, highly inspirational for the new generations.

Louis Vuitton’s Autumn Winter 2022 menswear runway | Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Fashion Show | Virgil Abloh | STIRworld
Louis Vuitton’s Autumn Winter 2022 menswear runway Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

"Let your imagination run riot", he used to repeat, and his amazing career happened without notions of fashion, surrounded by the halo of a fairy tale, making everyone nurture dreams. He always confronted this world of aspirations with a fervent pragmatism to push to imagine something better in moments when reality doesn’t, reminding us that "sometimes, when the architecture of your surroundings feels hostile, the architecture of the mind can save you”. He focused on encouraging adults to regain the sense of wonderment and the unspoiled outlook of a child, that doesn’t establish limits and is not yet affected by preconceptions and prejudices. A new way of thinking, trying to evaluate the appearance without active social and educational conditioning is the revolutionary essence of his ethics embracing authentic human values and imbuing even dress codes.

The set design for Louis Vuitton’s Autumn Winter 2022 directed by Caleb Femi | Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Fashion Show | Virgil Abloh | STIRworld
The set design for Louis Vuitton’s Autumn Winter 2022 directed by Caleb Femi Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Another door opens, crossing through the threshold into a 22-minute show, hovering above the pastel blue sky that transforms Carreau du Temple, a 19th century Parisian market, into a stage of surreal, enigmatic visual poetry. An evocative tribute, multi-layered and multi-referenced, part of Virgil’s brilliant ingenious power to inject innovative stimulus and vital energy, invigorating a fashion scenario, navigating across different terrains and demonstrating his ability to intertwine and stitch together diverse disciplines and cultures. A cross-sectoriality that through a real interdisciplinarity has allowed this versatile, inspirational and democratic man to find a language able to communicate with a large audience, launching a message of inclusivity and bridging together two distant worlds, streetwear and luxury clothing. An ideal that was his greatest ambition, as he explained in an interview: “It’s a crucial part of my overall body of work to prove that any place, no matter how exclusive it seems, is accessible to everyone, that you can be interested in expressing yourself through more than one practice and that creativity does not have to be tied to just one discipline”. Rigid codes, as he has anticipated, are replaced by a new freedom of thought and behaviour.

The scenography mixes the classic with the contemporary | Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Fashion Show | Virgil Abloh | STIRworld
The scenography mixes the classic with the contemporary Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

The scenography of this collection 8, synopsis of a work that extended from 2018 to 2022, encompasses themes and references that have punctuated and animated a path unfortunately abruptly interrupted just two months before the event. A few bizarre fragments of a home and a domestic interior strengthen with their iconic eccentricity the whimsical mood of a space of possibility. A half-sunken house with a pulsating red roof and smoking chimney, an exaggerated large bed and a double staircase, that invites to climb up towards an arched entrance which discloses a mysterious, enticing orange light, constitute the setting in dominant monochromatic intense blue tones, realised by the Los Angeles-based studio, PLAYLAB INC.

A long-overstretched banquet table welcomes, according to Abloh’s inclusive, convivial character, the Chineke! Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the musical director of the Opéra national de Paris, performing live the scores of the rapper Tyler, The Creator, arranged by Arthur Verocai, a Brazilian composer. Acrobats and somnambulant-like performers, directed and choreographed by Yoann Bourgeois, bounce off trampolines, while others contort their bodies, vivifying as a hip-hop fantastic, enchanting tale this Magritte-like cloud-realm. The subversive genius of Abloh’s eclectic personality freezes time as in the metaphysical realities portrayed by one of his favorite artists, Giorgio de Chirico. Garments, tapestries and prints pay homage to the realist Gustave Courbet, depicting all groups of French society, the elite to right and all other levels to the left. Virgil reinforces his beliefs, “that 'old' ideas should be invigorated with value and presented alongside the 'new', because both are equal in worth.”

The set design goes beyond the realms of fashion design | Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Fashion Show | Virgil Abloh | STIRworld
The set design goes beyond the realms of fashion design Image: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Hybridisation is a fertile source of innovation and this collection, inspired by new perspectives, presents men who, freed from a stereotyped idea of masculinity, wear tulle skirts, carry bouquets of flowers and handbags while a black angel with delicately laced white fairy wings symbolically inspires future generations.

This 'novel-length show' doesn’t end here: this man, who has often defined himself a “maker” more than a designer, has been able to play on emotional level, touching the heartstrings of everyone, reaching and impacting rationality. Breaking barriers, intolerant of conventional pretensions, merging diversities and subverting identities, he has re-contextualised a vision far beyond the realm of “fashion”.

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