When Virgil Abloh died in November 2021, there was one question on everybody’s lips: what will happen to
Laid out like a vibrant yellow Hot Wheels track complete with a loop, or as the brand puts it “a yellow brick road for the imagination,” (debut SS19 show, anyone?) Louis Vuitton SS23 was about to start. But not before the Marching 100 performed a five-minute-long routine clad in the FAMU uniform and some custom Louis Vuitton gear. It was then that clothes began to descend upon the track, backed by an orchestral opening that soon became Kendrick Lamar’s lyrical playground.
Chanting “Virgil,” Kendrick soon turned the runway into a live performance that, throughout the show, littered Abloh’s name alongside Kendrick’s own tracks such as “N95.” It was a punchy homage to the late designer, who’s work was translated by the Louis Vuitton Menswear Design team for SS23.
A soft lilac suit opened the show, with its darted collars, wide shoulders and slim sleeves, exaggerated lapels and floral buttons paired with matching trousers, a clean white shirt and a chrome, mirrored, and white 3D LV logo briefcase bag all coming together for a look that’s quintessential of Abloh’s LV tenure. This was echoed throughout the show as various pieces continued on the designer’s legacy in a multitude of forms.
An instant standout was the brushed mohair coat, a stunningly simple white overcoat that was delicately adorned with purple flowers — ones not too dissimilar to the species that grew throughout Off-White™ stores following his death. It was at this point that Kendrick Lamar became the focus of attention, dressed in some of Abloh’s finest Louis Vuitton garments to perform a freestyle song live on the mic, sitting alongside Naomi Campbell as he does so.
Motorcross cues, introduced by the designer once more, were advanced thanks to a black and green motorbike jacket that was paired with matching shorts and green tactical boots, while blazers in white saw cutouts on the sides and accessories in the form of croc-leather neck bags. The bold saturated hues Abloh was known for appeared across vivid purple denim co-ords, on beanie hats that blurred the line between whimsical childhood nostalgia and the house’s frequent use of characters in its work, while paper planes perched atop a two-piece tuxedo like butterflies, nodding once more to house cues Abloh introduced in previous seasons through invites and collections. The tux itself also drew on recent trends, notably Bianca Saunders who also opted for concealed buttons and pinched, asymmetrical, off-kilter lapels.
A steady array of varsity garments appeared throughout the SS23 collection, notably a bright orange leather jacket bearing playful puzzle shapes all over it. Other jacket-centric looks were complete with models wearing Louis Vuitton sound systems strapped to their backs or protruding from their shoulders and over their chest, nodding to Abloh’s love for music and architectural design.
Box pleated skirts in gray marl tones harked back to earlier works by Abloh, as did the three-dimensional pockets that sat on top of a green and purple field jacket, it enhanced by the pocket’s size and texture. Rounding out the runway show was a concession of all the looks, with a handful of models carrying a rainbow flag. While not confirmed, this very well could be the final tribute to Abloh as he debuted his first collection for Louis Vuitton in 2019 with a rainbow runway.
Louis Vuitton SS23 was a “magnified playground,” one which explored plenty of now-signature house tropes and Virgil-isms alongside new takes on past designs. Such references were key to the understanding and development of the collection, seeing it unfold on a runway that started and ended with a marching band — much like a national hero’s funeral. But despite all of this, it wasn’t only about what Louis Vuitton had lost. It was also about what the Menswear Design team had gained, and can pass on to the future, under the watchful eye of the man that turned Louis Vuitton around.
In other news, Givenchy got technical and literal for SS23.