The show begins with a vision of a snowy landscape and a narration by rapper Saul Williams. Coming from the woods, we see a town in the distance and, immediately after, we are thrown inside an ideal building, made up of large essential spaces covered with colored marble, which form the catwalk for the looks of the new Louis Vuitton collection. The modernist scenography, set up at the Tennis Club de Paris, takes the appearance of an imaginary station, a place where there are those who arrive, those who wait and those who go, in a bustle of characters from all cultural and social backgrounds, which carry on the ideal of the journey inherent in the history of Louis Vuitton.
From the press release released by the maison we learn that the plot of the fashion film takes its starting point from the archetypes: the artist, the salesman, the architect, the vagabond. Defining the “normal” characters of society, Virgil Abloh investigates the opinions we create about people based on the way they dress: their cultural background, their gender identity and sexuality.
The new men’s collection presented at Paris Fashion Week strives to illuminate and neutralize the prejudice we create around people, keeping the dress codes linked to certain archetypes, but changing the human values associated with them. The message is humanitarian: to create the same opportunities, the same dreams and equal freedom for all, reflecting on the fateful question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The themes of the collection are reflected in James Baldwin’s essay “Stranger in the Village” from 1953. The work deals with the parallelism between Baldwin’s experiences as an African American man in a Swiss village and his life in America, describing what it feels like to be a black artist in an art world created from a white European perspective.
On the accessories and jewels of the new Louis Vuitton men’s collection we see the words “YOU CAN TELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER”, “THE SAME PLACE AT THE SAME TIME”, “(SOMEWHERE SOMEHOW)”, made by conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner. Another recurring claim in the collection is “TOURIST VS. PURIST”, through which Virgil Abloh defines the outsider (the tourist), who looks and aspires to a domain of knowledge of the worlds of art, fashion, architecture, etc. Against the insider (the purist), who already dominates these worlds.
By questioning the preconceptions in our minds, the collection changes the preconceived codes of clothing. For example, the Kente cloth (a fabric and silhouette originating from Virgil Abloh’s Ghanaian origins) appears declined in tartan, a motif associated with Scotland, thus confusing our predetermined ideas. The motifs on the garments play through trompe l’oeil illusions.
The collection on stage at Paris Fashion Week asks the questions: who can claim art? What defines low vs high? Who can make art? Who can consume it? After the events of 2020, virgil Abloh proposes the idea that society may have the opportunity to create a “new normal” in which we free ourselves from the prejudices created around people, ideas and art. Furthermore, perpetuating the upcycling ideology of spring summer 2021, the new Louis Vuitton collection offers several ideas for reworking garments and accessories from previous seasons.