Recently held in Shanghai, Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2021 menswear show is also a manifesto to his commitment towards global change.
Continuing on with the storyline in the teaser video (released earlier during Paris Men’s Fashion Week) that saw the collection being shipped from Paris towards the Far East, Louis Vuitton has debuted its Spring/Summer 2021 menswear collection in Shanghai. Titled ‘Message in a Bottle,’ the collection was presented at a physical audience-filled fashion show, staged at a port in the city’s Pudong district, where models emerged from shipping containers adorned with inflatable ‘Zoom with friends’ characters.
With an overall concept of seeing the world through a child’s prejudice-free perspective, the collection marks the beginning of Virgil Abloh’s new chapter at Louis Vuitton. Announced in an accompanying three-page manifesto, the house’s menswear creative director promises to use this platform to motivate positive change in society, and promote ideas of inclusivity, unity, diversity, and individuality.
“For all intents and nuances, I have often spelled out the interceptive reality of myself as a Black man in a French luxury house. I am well aware of my responsibilities. Rather than preaching about it, I hope to lead by example and unlock the door for future generations,” expressed Abloh in his seasonal manifesto. “Under my artistic direction, I see my Louis Vuitton Men’s collections as my platform of nuance. I strive to employ fashion to reflect and affect ideals of inclusivity, unity and humanity. Through nuance, I believe in making my mark with poise, style and grace.”
As part of such efforts, Abloh has brought in an all-Black line-up of collaborators including animator Reggie Know, musicians from the Sa-Ra Creative Partners and stylist Ibrahim Kamara — a move that was inspired by ‘The Wiz,’ which made an iconic spin to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with an all-Black cast. Models, on the other hand, were all cast locally, with Chinese superstar Kris Wu making a special appearance.
Keeping in line with the topic of promoting progressive values, the designer is also pushing the house into more sustainable practices with the introduction of an initiative called ‘Upcycling Ideology’, where he interprets the concept of upcycling both literally and figuratively. As a result, the collection includes 25 looks made from recycled materials, and another 25 being reiterations from the FW20 collection.
“Ideas — the very foundation of fashion — are no longer disposable, but part of an eternal cycle of inspiration, codes and values that continue to elucidate and expand our ethos,” Abloh explains. “It’s a creative pyramid where brainwaves and technical development begin at the top only to filter into every other aspect of the Louis Vuitton Men’s realm.”
So what about the clothes itself? With a theme surrounding child-like innocence, you’ll find a range of slim suiting and boxy outerwear covered in clashing highlighter hues and whimsical prints, many of which are attached with plush animals in various sizes (or, in Kris Wu’s case, a gigantic inflatable that was double his height). To complete his surrealistic vision, Abloh has also added playful Mad Hatter-esque accessories such as silk-wrapped top hats and lopsided shades — perhaps to reinforce his commitment towards pushing boundaries and forging new possibilities to make the world a wonderland for all.
The Shanghai event forms the second part of the three-part show concept for the SS21 season. It will carry on to Tokyo for the third and final part come September.