“Within my practice, I contribute to a Black canon of culture and art and its preservation. This is why, to preserve my own output, I record it at length.” – Virgil Abloh, July 2020.
When Virgil Abloh suddenly passed away at age 41 on November 28, Louis Vuitton announced that to honour the final collection of their prolific men's artistic director, the luxury House would be holding a presentation in Miami, titled VIRGIL WAS HERE, showcasing the men's SS22 collection – the last season the culture-maker ever worked on for Louis Vuitton.
Last night on December 1 in Miami, the SS22 collection was presented amid a scattering of birch trees. A red hot air balloon floated above. Further out, a giant structure in the form of a rainbow painted Virgil stands above everything.
The collection, which was initially debuted earlier this year, zoomed in on archetypes and subcultures, highlighting their cultural context and collective re-contextualisation. Initially sparked by Amen Break, a little-known 1969 drum solo that became a founding factor in hip-hop and jungle music and has been sampled thousands of times since, Abloh played on this idea, leaning into his long-found questioning of ownership in a contemporary landscape. In this way, the collection is launched off the back of the idea, with motifs of classic silhouettes intercepted with architectural tailoring and accessories.
"Amen Break” has been sampled over 4,000 times and influenced multiple genres. Its legacy is a testament to how the
ephemeral becomes the eternal. The Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2022 Men’s Collection follows this logic of sampling the readymade to make new things from the old," Abloh states in his 2020 manifesto, shared by Louis Vuitton.
Constantly influenced by music and the cultural connotations that seemingly simple items carry within certain communities and spaces, Abloh expertly offered moments of streetwear into the luxury collection, with a fresh perspective served up with loaded prints and sharp suiting.
While technically menswear, Abloh's eye transcends the binary and focusses on form and fluidity, with voluminous skirts and cinched waistlines. It is quintessentially Virgil, and looking back, the DNA of his ethos is embedded into the final collection.
"Length is present in a variety of silhouettes, from skirts and kilts to jump-shirts and dresses. Obscuring codes of gender, culture and subculture, they enhance and empower the silhouette." He states in his collection notes.
Deep jewel tones are offered alongside muted khaki's before transitioning into joyful yellow's, acid greens, and hot pinks before being tied off with rusty red and classic black, as if fashion's own interpretation of the rainbow. In some moments these colours are blocked, in others, airbrushed to evoke the dress codes of ravers.
Despite the season having been Spring Summer, it does not deter Abloh from accessorising the collection with ear muffs, balaclava's, crushed brushed felt hats and padded gloves that play on motifs of sports like hockey and lacrosse. Throughout, the collection nods at both the brands iconic Damier, and Abloh's inner world and cultural tapestry, marrying identities of two cultural forces in vastly different ways into a symbiotic collection.
It feels almost painfully apt that his work ended with this collection, when so much of Abloh's vision for what fashion could be, his ideas around subversion, recontextualisation, and cross-cultural examination is present as ever, in the silhouettes and in the set design. Virgil is everywhere, from the low-slung tracksuits nodding once again to rave culture, to graffiti motifs on jacket sleeves and across the front of baggy jeans, to the precision of tailored jackets and waistcoats, all fitting together as the pieces of puzzle that made up his mind.
To close the show, Abloh's atelier team emerge to pay tribute to the beloved designer before a structure is lit with rainbow lights and fireworks go off above the audience.
"This is my invitation to move forward together with awareness, hope and determination," Abloh writes in the last paragraph of his manifesto. "You are witnessing unapologetic Black Imagination on display."
"If you made it this far, thank you for your time."
Virgil was here.
Watch the tribute and revisit the Louis Vuitton men's spring summer 2022 collection, below.