Chicago native and Louis Vuitton's men's artistic director Virgil Abloh may be on the brain as of late, given our time outdoors is measured and online buying may have gotten out of control with all the time spent indoors.
Just Google his name and you'll find that Abloh has helped fundraise for amfAR Against COVID-19 with Fashion Unites and just a couple of months before that, his Abloh-ness was a part of a group of local designers lending their skills to a streetwear collection of clothing that embodied Chicago's connectivity and attitude during the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend. From his hot Off-White fashion label to his neon orange Louis Vuitton pop-up and MCA exhibit last summer, Abloh couldn't help being added to the names of those that changed the fashion world in the last decade.
The designer presented his Spring 2021 menswear collection for Louis Vuitton on Aug. 6 in Shanghai, but rather than one traditional presentation, the collection titled "Message in a Bottle" will be a series of international events, unveiled gradually in chapters through the end of 2020.
"It's my desire to imbue the traditional codes of luxury with my own progressive values," Abloh explained in his manifesto included in the press release for the collection." "For all intents and nuances, I have often spelled out the interceptive reality of myself as a black man in a French luxury house. I am well aware of my responsibilities. Rather than preaching about it, I hope to lead by example and unlock the door for future generations."
Highlights in the upbeat collection include sharp, tailored suits in milky white, electric blue and acid yellow, along with jackets and coats embellished with 3D stuffed cartoon characters dubbed Zoooom with friends. Throughout the collection, Abloh's "Upcycling Ideology" includes clothes made from recycled overstock from the archives of Louis Vuitton and Abloh's collections upcycled into new manifestations.
Shortly before the collection was shown, we had a chance to chat with the iconic fashion designer and entrepreneur. The interview has been condensed and edited.
Q: How is the fashion landscape changing in this COVID-19 world?
A: I'm an optimist. I ride in positivity. That's what helps me get up every day. I just hope that everyone is more heartfelt in their moves, that they express their creativity. Fashion is an amazing art platform that requires the people. Brands don't exist without a community around them. So to me, I answer that with the Renaissance. I use my story to hopefully be a model that other brands can find a way to contribute and give back to the Black (Lives) Matter movement.
Q: What other Black businesses/owners should be getting more love from the city?
A: I always like doing before I speak about it because the movements can get distracting and I'm a doer. I like to put results before. What I'm advocating is supporting Black-owned businesses, in all shapes or fashion, because there is so much difficulty for us to formulate these businesses and foster them. I'm doing what I can and going one by one and two by two. I started a Black scholarship fund for fashion designers. The same doors that I opened up for myself, I want to keep them opened for other Black owners of fashion businesses and designers. I've worked with Chicago CRED, (the Chicago anti-gun violence organization) I've used RSVP Gallery (Abloh's conceptual retail experience in Chicago and Los Angeles), as a hub to teach kids how to get into fashion - that to me is what I did it for. To me, it's most important.
Q: Has the Black Lives Matter movement helped you in your efforts?
A: After we (RSVP Gallery in Chicago, Los Angeles) had been looted, I said: 'I'm going to do more for the community.' I made Off-White to be a brand that I owned, a Black-owned business that can apply itself locally to Black-owned advancement. There's things that the government can do and the city level can do, but this brand and me being the owner of it, is made for exact issues ... What we can do as a community in rapid action is important.
Q: In an earlier (2019) interview, you said streetwear is going to die next year, meaning this year. Do you still hold to that statement or are you just waiting to see how it happens?
A: I think wait and see. 2020 is one of the most pivotal years in our existence, so nothing is predictable.
Q: What's next for you?
A: This is action time. These headlines every day, are almost impossible to read because look at after every weekend. I want to help the news go in a positive direction and I think that young people need role models and stories to find out...how we can, as a unit, correct what we know is wrong.
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