“Youth is global. We are all one. We are the world,” declares Virgil Abloh in the show notes for his third menswear collection for Louis Vuitton.
The idea behind this season's show was to create a self-contained environment that felt removed from the typical idea of a fashion show. In practice, it manifested as a child's idea of what a fashion show should be. Walking in, it felt more like a theme park attraction in the sense that there was an underlying sense of self-awareness. There was a Louis Vuitton-branded bounce house, Louis Vuitton-monogrammed green benches with bright orange bolts, Louis Vuitton-branded crêperies, a “Librarie Louis Vuitton” with a zine on display, and tchotchkes that ranged from ashtrays to mini Eiffel Towers to bubbles.
For Spring/Summer 2020, Abloh coalesced multiple themes and references to create a new meaning for “photosynthesis.” Of course, this didn't just apply to the verdant collection and its picturesque setting — Place Dauphine, near the Louis Vuitton atelier, viewable from Abloh's office window — nor was it solely about the mossy, astroturf-like applications and floral adornments on the artistic director's latest selection of instantly covetable accessories and apparel. It was about an omniscient sense of cultural synergy that Abloh cultivated throughout his most daring collection yet.
First, there's the "COMING OF AGE" zine in the library, a limited-edition tome numbered to just 300 copies featuring the same work currently being exhibited at LA's Little Big Man Gallery. There was the diverse casting, not just in ethnicity, but again the bringing together of cross-disciplinary individuals (mostly of color) to model the collection. Once again skater Lucien Clarke and UK rapper Octavian returned, and this time they were joined by artist Delfin Finley, footballer Hector Bellerin, and Hawaiian skater Evan Mock.
Abloh took all of these different energies to bring a new vibe to the gestalt. He quite literally expanded his vocabulary from previous seasons, including a new version of “The Vocabulary According to Virgil Abloh” in his show notes, with new additions bolded in black with the existing lexicon rendered in faded gray. Surely by the time he's done at Louis Vuitton, Abloh will have redefined enough words to write a whole book — and maybe that's already part of the masterplan.
The key to understanding Abloh's premise requires looking at his work through the eyes of a child; as the notes put it, one whose “encounter with clothes and fashion is yet to be influenced by societal programming.”
In some ways, the way he samples everything from French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse's 1956 short The Red Balloon (a key influence on the collection) and Tyler, the Creator's “IGOR'S THEME” (an orchestral version of which plays during the finale) to past pieces by Craig Green and Yves Saint Laurent speaks to the kind of thing streetwear brands have been doing since their inception.
And it's the logical endpoint of streetwear's obsolescence: the brands that once aspired and paid homage to houses like Louis Vuitton are now having their modus operandi repurposed by one of their own.