In a tearful speech at sunset just before the show began, Burke said that Abloh had been planning the show until the end. “It was the wish of Virgil’s wife, Shannon, and his family that tonight’s show and concert went ahead,” he said. “And I am deeply grateful to everyone here that we have honored that wish. The last time that I spoke with Virgil was on Saturday evening. He talked with passion about the finer details of the show: the symbolism of the paper plane, and the balloons, the sequencing of the collection looks, the concert we are about to experience. He had imagined it all, and he was distraught not to be here to share it with us in person.”
A fashion show, especially one coinciding with the lavish hedonism of Art Basel, is a strange place to grieve. But Abloh had a knack for subverting expectations. His Louis Vuitton presentations were never merely fashion shows—they were seismic pop culture events. Central to that force was the community drawn to Abloh’s potent creative gravity. And yesterday that community turned up for Abloh one last time, from the ultra-famous consiglieres (Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, A$AP Rocky, Bella Hadid) to the collaborators (Matthew Williams, Kunle Martins, Don C, Nigo) to his peers (Jonathan Anderson, Jerry Lorenzo, Kerby Jean-Raymond) to the next generation he opened doors for (Samuel Ross, Kerwin Frost, Zack Bia, and Pedro Cavaliere among many others).
“It feels like a regular Virgil event, except we’re missing Virgil,” said Don C, the Chicago designer who accompanied Abloh on his first trip to Paris Fashion Week in 2012. Abloh’s appeal, of course, transcended the creative industries, drawing figures not often seen at fashion shows like James Murdoch, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump. Some guests arrived wearing black, but most—especially the sizable contingent of LV clients—were dressed in Abloh’s designs, which were rarely black. Silvery mid-layer harnesses, trippy rainbow watercolor-printed leather jackets, grunge-y tie-dye kilts, beefy jewel-toned corduroy blazers, and stuffed animal bags were a reminder of how interesting, wacky, and wearable his clothes have been.
As the final few guests found their seats and soaring orchestral music flowed over the crowd, a familiar voice rose above. Abloh was speaking, softly but clearly, in a voiceover: “I’ve been on this focus in terms of my art and creativity, of getting adults to behave like children again. And they go back into this sense of wonderment. They start to stop using their mind, and they start using their imagination.”
Abloh’s muscular Spring-Summer 2022 collection was a rumination on sampling and remixing sartorial codes, the way hip-hop DJs sample and remix beats. For Miami, there were 10 new looks, including precisely tailored wool blazers in Miami Dolphins turquoise. Billowy tie-dye puffer coat dresses, and hybrid suits with asymmetrical knife-pleated skirts, felt even more compelling the second time around following Abloh’s impactful skirt-suit Met Gala look. Cowboy- and moon boot-hybrid sneakers were some of Abloh’s freakiest and coolest designs to date, and the show reprised the forthcoming Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force—a crowning achievement for a designer who began sending DIY AF1 ideas to Nike at the age of 17.