Style & Grooming

Among the Clouds, Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton Transforms the Suit

Virgil Abloh – in his fourth collection for Louis Vuitton – was thinking about tailoring for Autumn/Winter 2020

A cloud-strewn sky-blue runway provided the setting for Virgil Abloh’s fourth menswear collection for Louis Vuitton, and his first back after a months-long hiatus for health reasons. Scattered among this ethereal showspace, as if floating in the ether, were monumental versions of the tools used by the Vuitton craftspeople and leatherworkers to make the house’s famed trunks: Borrowers-size spools of thread and paintbrushes, pins and scissors. And, in Abloh’s typically tongue-in-cheek manner, a literal ‘trunk’ – albeit that of a vast tree, rising through the clouds like Jack’s beanstalk. 

Those tools of industry might have been a kind of clue: Abloh, in echoes of Miuccia Prada the previous week in Milan, elaborated post-show that he had been thinking about work – its “metaphors” and “uniforms”. It had drawn him towards a consideration of the suit, a garment as yet relatively unexplored in his tenure at the house thus far. “I want to push the industry in a different direction,” he explained. “It’s fashion: everything goes in a cycle, things will die, things will come back. I want to propose tailoring.” So that’s where the show began: neat, slim-legged suiting in corporate shades of beige and black, wool twill overcoats, matching poplin shirts and ties, Abloh’s signature ‘harness’, transfigured into banker’s braces, all riffed on the uniform of the working man. 

But that was only part of the story. Abloh’s show notes also promised a departure from tailoring’s “corporate comfort zone”; “twisted and turned, the dress codes of an old world are neutralised, reappropriated and embraced for a progressive joie de vivre,” they explained. In this manner, as the show continued, the very idea of the suit began to disintegrate: by look 13 it was sliced apart into pieces, by look 16 it had transformed into a wool gabardine hoodie; elsewhere, it appeared in oftentimes surreal iterations, like a series of tailoring which exploded into ruffles along the edges, or an overcoat on which a shirt and tie had been stitched on to its front. “Don’t let your day job define you,” winked the notes. 

It finished with a dreamlike series of suits decorated with the very same cloudy skies as the set itself. Abloh talked about wanting to redevelop that feeling of seeing the world as you did as a child: “gazing at the world through the optics of a child – of an adolescent or a young man – is tantamount to first impressions, to the purity of mind and the refreshing optimism of naivety”. It’s why, along with the invite, he gave each attendee a LV-monogrammed clock, engineered to turn backwards. It reminded of Alessandro Michele’s swinging pendulum, a symbol of his own pivot to childhood, both gestures of fashion’s power – in times of world, or indeed personal, crisis – to turn back the clock and start over.