The remarkable life of Virgil Abloh, the groundbreaking artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, was honored in Miami on Tuesday with a poignant final fashion show, two days after he died from a rare form of cancer at 41.
Louis Vuitton presented the Spring/Summer 2022 spin-off show at Miami Marine Stadium with a front row that included Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Venus Williams, A$AP Rocky, Bella Hadid, Pharrell Williams—and the Arnault family, which owns the venerable French luxury brand.
The brand’s CEO, Michael Burke, gave a brief, heartfelt speech, informing the audience that Abloh’s family had made the decision to present the collection, according to his wishes. He recalled that he had recently talked with Abloh about the “inspiration to empower younger generations.” Burke continued, “Virgil was the age of my eldest child, and he was like family to me.”
Soon after, models hit the runway, sporting soft and flowing military-inspired suits including ski-inspired military boots. Flashes of high-octane neon menswear looks with vibrant backpacks were plentiful, a perfect mix of Abloh’s high-fashion-meets-street-fashion aesthetic.
“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.”
Transforming the gender-related archetypes associated with certain garments, the collection focused on a purely human approach to dressing. One black suit in particular stood out for me with its beaded embroidery technique. Landscape bags were created in jacquard made from recycled materials.
Abloh also collaborated with Nike on bespoke Air Force 1 sneakers, fusing the shoe’s classic lines with the insignia and materials of Louis Vuitton—a nod to the hip-hop culture that shaped him. “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” he once mused.
As full of life and joy as the collection was, there was an obvious melancholy feeling in the crowd. I even witnessed guests crying throughout the runway show. The audience stood in silence during the finale, gazing at a hot air balloon with the famed LV logo. Then, in the darkness, the late designer’s voice filled the stadium: “Life is so short that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do, versus knowing what you can do.”
It reminded me of when I interviewed Abloh in 2019. I recall him saying to me, “creative thought is ubiquitous.” He meant it and he lived it.
And then, just before the mood turned too funereal, a magnificent drone show lit up the sky. A paper plane turned into the iconic L.V. monogram before morphing into V.A., the designer’s own initials. And then they displayed one final message: Virgil was here.
As if anyone will ever forget.