by kiara gajo
On January 24th, 2022, the sun came out.
It had been almost two months since the visionary had tragically, and suddenly, departed from this world. The three days leading up to the release of the Louis Vuitton Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Fashion Show had been bleak. Dark skies and grim, drizzling rain mirrored the people’s mourning.
An inventor. A creator. A visionary. A dreamer. All of these words encompass everything Virgil Abloh represented. Evident in his work throughout his entire career, he remained vulnerable and raw. He was open with incorporating his emotions into his work; always creating something with a hunger for truth and freedom. His magic was a combination of boundless imagination and a rare ability to change the narrative, breaking down traditional perspectives.
On November 28, 2021, Virgil passed after a private, two year battle with a rare form of cancer called cardiac angiosarcoma. The fashion industry, and the world, seemed to go black. Time froze. I read the news as I was mindlessly scrolling on my Instagram feed that day. I could hear my heart crack in my chest as I wept.
Although his career in the industry was short lived, Virgil truly has been one of the artists in my opinion to change everything about the world as we know it. He was a young Black man with innate, instinctual talent who broke all the rules.
In 2012, Abloh launched his first brand, Pyrex Vision, in New York as a homage to streetwear and youth culture. Pyrex Vision and everything the collection represented would later go onto evolving into his most recognizable contribution, Off-White. He made history in 2018 with his first show as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, the first Black man to obtain and excel in the position. A master at adaptation and a lover of growth, Virgil feared nothing and embraced everything.
Aria Hughes, deputy style editor at Complex Magazine, told Teen Vogue that “In many ways, Virgil's rise validated the power and influence of streetwear, which is rooted in Black culture, and this comes after years of the industry ignoring it along with Black culture's impact on fashion.” She says. “His success with Off-White and his appointment as artistic director of Louis Vuitton Men's Collection underscored the impact of Black culture and Black creatives. It also showed that consumers are craving inclusivity and diversity.”
So on the launch date of the 𝓛𝓸𝓾𝓲𝓼 Dreamhouse Men’s Fall-Winter 2022 Fashion Show, the light was allowed back in. The Carreau du Temple in Paris shone with giddy anticipation, awaiting its debut as the fortress in which Virgil’s ideas would triumph. The show, as described on the Louis Vuitton website, is a riddlement of metaphysicality, androgyny and nostalgia.
“Through the lens of Virgil Abloh’s central Boyhood Ideology, seeing the world with the eyes of a child, the collection transmutes the dress codes popularly tied to societal archetypes and patchworks them in new ways. Through materials and techniques, gestures of surrealism take form, abstracting the familiar and expanding our horizons.” - Louis Vuitton website.
Before the show, Louis Vuitton’s CEO, Michael Burke, made a speech reflecting on what the collection, the stage, the venue, the music, the people who worked on the show and the people that would watch meant to the visionary. The crowd sat in a throbbing silence. Burke choked: “This idea of coming of age was important to Virgil because inspiring and empowering younger generations defined who he was. He used the platform he had to break boundaries, to open doors, to shed light on his creative passions—art, design, music, and of course, fashion—so that everybody could see inside—not only to dream of being part of that world but to also find ways to make that dream a reality.”
Along with his dedication to art and fashion, Virgil engaged in many other talents. He grew up in a small community on the East Coast and took on skateboarding. He describes it as a “moment of culture” when asked about it in a GQ interview: “That was how you bonded with your friends and did something creative. Communities were created. Skating was something that was very integral to my teenage years, skating with this crew of kids in my city. And we were watching skate videos, buying skate magazines… We were in the moment of the culture.” Virgil often collaborated with professional skateboarder Robert Neal. Neal often modeled for Louis Vuitton campaigns that Virgil orchestrated.
In the late 1990s, Virgil began DJing at small events and house parties. His magnetic energy and futuristic sounds attracted people to his music and he began to DJ on the global scene, playing at venues and festivals including Tomorrowland, Hï Ibiza, fabric, Circoloco and more. In 2009, Abloh met Kanye West—now called Ye—while he was working at a screen-printing store. After he and Ye interned together at the LVMH brand Fendi, Abloh was Ye's creative director. Abloh was art director for the 2011 Ye-Jay-Z album “Watch the Throne,” for which Abloh was nominated for a Grammy.
On November 30, 2021, fashion’s biggest stars and other celebrities gathered in Miami to watch his second to last Louis Vuitton Men's show.
The show was a tribute. Lights went up as a pre-recorded short film featuring a young Black boy bicycling through deserted locations in Miami. The boy eventually ascended into the sunset by way of a bright red “LV” hot-air balloon. As the film faded out, the first model was cued by the sound of Virgil’s voice:
“I’ve been on this focus, in terms of my art and creativity, of getting adults to behave like children again. That they go back into this sense of wonderment. They start to stop using their mind and they start using their imagination.”
The title of the show breathes in the realms of emotional declaration and powerful existence. A reminder of his presence. An assertion of his impact.
Virgil Was Here.