"And in these uncertain times, may creativity be our voice," artistic director Virgil Abloh expressed through a recorded video message shown at the end of the second runway show of his spring/summer 2021 collection for Louis Vuitton.
Abloh's been taking quite a lot of heat of late. His reaction to Black Lives Matter protests in the US sparked some backlash just a few months ago. And the first outing of his spring/summer 2021 collection in Shanghai was met with accusations of plagiarism, with many comparing the collection to the work of noted Belgian fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck.
It seemed as though the Tokyo leg of the voyage served as a response to that accusation. Abloh had said from the beginning that one of the inspirations of the collection was a teddy bear designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton's spring/summer 2005 menswear collection, and that had informed the creation of 'Zooom with friends' and how they were involved in the collection. During the show, that same teddy bear made a surprise appearance, unboxed from a crate and then carried by one of the models.
In total, the spring/summer 2021 collection spanned almost 120 looks. This marks Abloh's most extensive collection for Louis Vuitton in terms of the number of looks created. It's a rather curious number given how most fashion brands have scaled down on the breadth of their collections in light of the ongoing pandemic. But on the other hand, perhaps an indication of how having had more time during isolation has resulted in a burst of creativity. In fact, much of the looks have elements of upcycling—whether they've been constructed from overstock materials, recycled ideas, pieces from previous seasons that have been reworked, or from repurposed materials.
Look and feel: Because it is a continuation of the Shanghai showcase and part of the same spring/summer 2021 collection, the vibe remained the same. The 'Zooom with friends' characters were still a key fixture of the collection, with many seen affixed on all manner of ready-to-wear but (if it were even possible) on a more extensive scale. Look 25 for example, featured stuffed toy variations of said characters decorated around the front of a jumper, while they adopted an all-over Checknosis—a term Abloh describes as a 'technical use of checked patterns in a hypnotising or hallucinogenic way'—pattern on a bold red coat as seen on look 115.
We were, however, expecting a more juxtaposed approach to the first part of the spring/summer 2021 collection. One where perhaps the characters would be interpreted in less editorial ways, as a contrast to the embellishment-heavy introduction in Shanghai.
Favourite looks: We're looking at real-world practicality here when choosing our favourite looks from this part of the collection. The checkered iterations of the puppets on equally checkered clothes are the best versions of the lot, but again, hard for the average Louis Vuitton customer to pull off on the streets. We're leaning towards the other checkered pieces in the collection though. Changing up the scale of alternating checks (basically checks within checks within checks) created an interesting visual effect that really did seem hypnotic. And it was used to excellent effect.
The straightforward approach in look 43 with a long coat and coordinated trousers paired with a red shirt and shoes, was undeniably ska and cool. Look 9's more offbeat iteration worked well with its contrasting pattern pairing—didn't stray too far from the norm but different enough. Look 44 was reminiscent of the pleated skirt silhouette that was first seen during autumn/winter 2019, but even more impressive now after going through the Checknosis effect. And while look 23's generously cut coat was attached to a severely oversized puppet, it's quite an arresting proposition and play with volume.
Favourite accessories: It's tough not to pick on a trunk-inspired piece when they're so integral to Louis Vuitton. Look 8's more vertical and all-white rendition is one to gun for this spring/summer 2021 season. It's just the right size and also came decorated with a couple of the 'Zooom with friends' characters.
For something less kitsch and more practical, we must say that the hats in this Tokyo portion were quite a sight to behold. Go for the wide-brimmed jungle hats in hypnotic checks for something a tad unexpected to pair with relaxed tailoring. But if you have to choose just one, we'd recommend the one from look 63—a combination of plaid and the LV Monogram—for its unique colourway.