Virgil Abloh's appointment as Louis Vuitton men's artistic director has been contentious from the start. While streetwear fans and hypebeasts applauded the monumental stamp in luxury fashion history, many questioned the move as potentially alienating existing Louis Vuitton clientele.
Abloh's Louis Vuitton has indeed taken some liberties—tweaking existing designs just a smidge to create something new, as well as incorporating that streetwear culture that he was undoubtedly hired for. But at the same time, he's never been opposed to embracing Louis Vuitton's archives and more sartorial side, as evident from 2020's successful collaboration with Nigo that was rather tailoring-centric and played with the maison's iconic motifs.
Being the first Black artistic director for a fashion house under LVMH's portfolio, Abloh has also visibly changed the Louis Vuitton man. For one, he's no longer depicted as fashion's typical white male archetype; there's diversity and a sense that the fashion house is moving on with the times.
Louis Vuitton men's autumn/winter 2021 then, seemed like a culmination of what Abloh has been building since his first collection. The collection was an exploration of the predetermined perceptions that society has on appearances, connected to a person's genetics, ideas and art, and what they would 'normally' be associated with. The aim was simple at its core: to change that narrative by recontextualising elements of dress but at the same time retaining their values.
The entire production consisted of a cinematic introduction by Saul Williams in the Swiss mountains, a runway presentation, and then a musical performance by rapper Mos Def (now publicly known as Yasiin Bey). It was a celebration of Black culture and breaking those stereotypes at a time where a heightened sense of privilege and inequality has been felt. And it was also a glimpse of what Abloh could do for fashion like what many Black activists before him have done for the culture.
Look and feel: While we're all not travelling for leisure anytime soon, Louis Vuitton's autumn/winter 2021 menswear collection felt like an amalgamation of the best airport outfits. Because of the theme, Abloh drew references from his personal familial stories and experiences, as well as that of the African diaspora. But namely, there was a strong masculine vibe—accentuated by sharp, cutting shoulder lines—that was inherent in every look, with each exemplifying the many different facets of masculinity.
Favourite looks: As ridiculous as they may seem, the architectural structures of looks 21 and 38 were quite a joy to look at, and provided some much needed visual reprieve from the rest of the collection. But impressive constructions aside, the sweeping ensembles of looks 31, 48 and 51 felt regal and Dick Tracy-esque, and also brought to mind a brilliant balance of masculinity with a tinge of elegant femininity. For something more practical, we're opting for look 23's perfect office boy look (equipped with LV Monogram cup) with those strong shoulders built into a cropped white shirt.
Favourite accessories: There were a lot to unpack and choose from, but top spot would have to go to the airplane bag (look 50) that felt like an homage to artisans the likes of Dapper Dan who created custom designs using materials from luxury fashion houses. Who cares about practicality when something is this playful and looks this good? Special mentions go to the carton-shaped bags (looks 11 and 39) too that we'd want to place pre-orders for right now.