It’s been a big month for Louis Vuitton which, since learning the devastating news that its men’s artistic director Virgil Abloh had passed away, hasn't shied away from honoring his contributions to both the house and contemporary culture. The tributes include showing Abloh’s final collection for SS22 per his wishes in Miami, rolling out a series of colorful “Virgil Was Here” window graphics around the globe, and most recently, a lookbook (his last for the house) containing his Pre-Fall 2022 designs.
Now comes news that Louis Vuttion’s temporary retail initiative, "Walk in the Park," has found its latest home in Sydney, Australia. Following previous stints in Paris, New York, and Shibuya, the temporary residency, while not new in concept, finds new meaning with the arrival of its Sydney outpost. This iteration of the project marks the first since Virgil’s passing.
The residency will serve as a three-month immersion into Louis Vuitton’s men’s universe and features Virgil Abloh’s most coveted designs across ready-to-wear, footwear, and accessories in a market-first experience for shoppers to discover the vision for Louis Vuitton ushered in by Abloh.
Speaking to Australian luxury personal shopper Gab Waller, whose namesake business is dedicated to securing highly demanded and sold-out products, she recalled noticing a massive shift in the demand for Louis Vuitton’s men’s pieces since Virgil joined the house. “The demand I saw for Virgil’s pieces was nothing like I’d noticed with any other artistic director. There were so many pieces that sold out before ever making it to the boutiques, so it's huge that Sydney shoppers will now have the chance to shop Virgil's designs with greater accessibility than they've had previously".
Design features of the store include joyous rainbow hues that nod distinctly to the set of Abloh’s SS19 show – his debut runway show for the luxury giant. But it’s a 7.5 meter (24 foot) tall 3D sculpture of Virgil that dominates the space and will stop shoppers in their tracks and, no doubt, become the subject of many social posts.
Among the products available at the temporary residency are two Sydney exclusives, including a fresh take on the 1.1 Millionaire sunglasses which have been reimagined in a purple and red gradient, as well as a new colorway of the LV Trainer Sneaker issued in only 100 pairs. The sneaker, part of the upcycling collection of the silhouette pioneered by Abloh, remains true to the upcycling ideology first introduced by Virgil for his SS2021 collection. It has been crafted entirely from upcycled LV sneakers that were dismantled and reassembled to take their final form. So while no two pairs are exactly the same, the Sydney exclusive style includes swatches of red, purple, and pink and comes complete with patches and an iridescent tag.
Through his varied pursuits, Vigil was able to connect with youth culture without geographical bounds. His impact was felt deeply by Sydney creative group SETTINGS, which hosted an eleventh hour DJ set by Virgil while he was in town to promote other projects back in 2017. Jordan Fraser of SETTINGS looks back on the night as having a “profound effect" on his life and recalling Abloh, like so many have in recent weeks, as “a true leader in breaking down doors and being the perfect example of how to operate in industries that once seemed out of reach."
Similarly, for Sydney-based artist, David Porte Beckefeld, who met Virgil during one of his trips to Australia and had the opportunity to bond over 3D art, the young creative mourns the “monumental loss to the creative sphere” but describes Abloh as “a beacon of hope for many designers, artists, and creatives, showing them that they can get to the top with conviction to their craft."
Posthumous activities are tough to navigate, particularly when the honoree is so highly regarded. But if the countless testimonies of Abloh’s unbridled kindness and praise for breaking down barriers and showing future generations that “you can do it too” are anything to go by, then something tells me that Louis Vuitton’s Sydney residency, while completely shoppable, will double as a space of connection and healing for communities of fashion enthusiasts and fellow dreamers. All of them will visit to honor a man that showed them just what’s possible if you reach for it.