In his first Paris residency for the Louis Vuitton collection Virgil Abloh helms, the men’s Artistic Director honed-in on one of the few places left where folks can safely gather; a retail concept store, to celebrate the luxury brand’s male universe. But he didn’t stop there adding another spot people can safely intermingle – a custom-made outdoor “skate adventure” park as well as connecting fans where they have been the last year, online, with a digital AR experience. Collectively the events were dubbed “Louis Vuitton: A Walk in the Park”. The activations cumulated with the Fall-Winter 2021 collection that laid the groundwork for rich creative marketing material for the retail goods come fall.
Earlier this month, the high concept temporary store opened. Based in the former Conforama adjacent to the Louis Vuitton corporate headquarters on Rue Pont Neuf, the space was converted into a colorful journey to discover the Spring 2021 men’s collection and exclusive accessories. A rainbow-effect of painted rafters and walls recalled the runway that Abloh created for his first Vuitton collection. Custom mannequins based on male models from past shows and ‘Zoooom with Friends’ characters from the Spring 2021 show (namely Joe the dog and the dragon character) displayed the looks.
The residency focused on a series of ‘Hall of Fame’ sneakers; five rare styles of the LV trainers reissued for the occasion. According to a company spokesperson, several styles of sneakers have sold-out within the first week, such as the Paris colorway style, which offered 95 pairs for sale. Ditton for exclusive versions of the Cuban-style chain necklaces specific to global cities and a sunglass reissue.
Along with clothing, sneakers, jewelry, sunglasses, and trunks on hand to sell, Abloh offered an immersive experience of curated books, a customization table for initials or designs painted on leather goods, and art from skater Lucien Clarke. The Jamaican-bord skateboarder was recently signed to develop the brand’s first proper skate sneaker. Abloh also created the soundtrack on the sound system.
During its two-week tenure, Paris adjusted its local curfew from 8 pm to 6 pm, but that didn’t deter guests, who snaked around the corner on opening weekend. Adhering to strict health guidelines, visitors allowed in the store at once is limited to 30 people. A weekday midday visit showed about fifteen people waiting to enter while respecting safety measures with bustling sales activity inside.
More Immersive Experiences
In addition to the store, which sits across from the soon-to-be-opened LVMH-owned La Samaritaine retail and hotel complex, the residency gave way to a luxury marble’ skate adventure’ park slash art installation by Gallery Kreo just before the fall fashion show. Ideally, within the confines of current health guidelines, Abloh intended to make a place where youth could gather outside. Simultaneously, an AR experience launched that featured ‘Zoooom with friends’ characters climbing out of the Place Vendome store’s windows
Fall’s digital runway
The final component of the January celebration of the Louis Vuitton men’s offerings was the Fall 2021 collection show. Much like the Spring 2021 show, this show will offer a plethora of retail marketing gold nuggets to choose from. While the industry weighs whether the shows need to be in person or not, Abloh proves he can communicate even more digitally. The luxury brand had initially been planned for a live show for local press and buyers but pivoted to a fully digital presentation in light of Paris’ ongoing ban on gatherings of more than six people due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Billed as a “multi-disciplinary artistic expression of ideas investigated within the collection,” according to the show notes, the Fall-Winter 2021 Men’s show involved several arts – poetry, dance, and song – to convey Abloh’s point of view for clothes, collaborative spirit and beyond. Inspired by James Baldwin’s 1953 essay “Stranger in the Village,” the show was captured in Switzerland and Paris. Saul Williams represented the African American poet and de facto narrator of the show as he represented one of several male archetypes the designer portrayed in the show. Abloh’s models also embodied the drifter, the artist, the salesman, the architect and so forth to further explain. The morphed visual experience that turned from snowscape to a marble set also featured dancing by Josh Johnson, music from Yasiin Bey, and the first trans man to walk in a Louis Vuitton show, gender poet and activist Kai Isaiah Jamal, who penned and read poetry recited during the show as well.
The offerings played upon those male fashion tropes with plenty of tailored looks – a sign of hope for an office life return? Abloh interprets these classic pieces, tailored jackets, pants, and overcoats in new elongated and oversized silhouettes. Reimagined Kente cloth as a tartan plaid was prevalent and a new twist on a classic fabrication. His Spring 2021 collection whimsy returned. only this time via 3D cloth shapes in the form of buildings affixed onto jackets, surely to become rare collector items. In reimagining these basic wardrobe styles, the designer questions common notions on design ownership with his ‘Tourist vs. Purist’ theory. In it he maintains there are “those who observe and aspire towards a domain of knowledge, and those who inhabit it,” according to show notes. Louis Vuitton is also pushing upcycling, which debuted last season and, according to Abloh via show notes, refers to three ideas. First, to reusing existing materials, next to recycling ideas, and last to rehashing pieces from previous collections in a new manner. Accessories are a key component of any Vuitton collection. In accessories, Abloh delivered on a duffle style bag, a boxy portfolio, and totes bearing a show theme.