Louis Vuitton SS19 Mens

by BJ Panda Bear

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The rainbow colors painted on the runway along the entire 200 meters length of the Domain du Palais Royal and matching t-shirts given to the guests was an indication beyond the obvious moment in fashion for inclusiveness and diversity. It is a recognition by the LVMH corporate boss that both the audience and the demographics of the consumers of luxury products are at a crossroad and changing at a fast pace that is now controlled by a rainbow coalition of rather than any single monolith.  Virgil Abloh’s debut men’s collection for Louis Vuitton called ‘We Are the World” opened with a series of all-white outfits on black models and ended in a kaleidoscope of light colors and a sparkling silver cape embroidered with a large LV logo in the back addressed directly to this now audience that all luxury brands aimed to capture, at first their attention then perhaps their purchasing power.  

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In choosing Abloh, Louis Vuitton is choosing to directly confront its future as the brand absorbs the alternating fashion landscape.  

It isn’t a secret that many of the top luxury brands have been struggling at least in the menswear arena to remain relevant to younger customers over the last decade.

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While the DNA may still resonate among older consumers, they don’t mean as much to millennials who aren’t as assuage to the heritage messaging and who are less likely to find a community of shared ideas within the luxury space. Designers at brands like Dior Homme and Louis Vuitton dialed up the quotient of streetwear signature items in their collections – hooded sweatshirts, tracksuits, print tees – along with the ubiquitous rise of the sneakers in attempts to link to what is happening on the street scene and to make luxury brands feel authentic.  

Last year’s massive three-week collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme served this purpose from the social media to the commercial standpoint. But the house needed someone inside with sufficient command of the new vocabulary of fashion to lead.  And with a show that combined both messaging and products, Abloh succeeded in creating a new platform for the brand’s forward momentum in a melting pot of global culture.  Or as the show glossary notes defined what luxury means now – “A label determined by values, codes, and qualities, its use and definition were the privileges of few until a new generation conquered its dominion and shifted the paradigm for good.” 

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That said what about the clothes?  The product message was clear from the first look of a tailored double-breasted mohair jacket with loose silk pleated pants, styled with a crisp white suede sneakers and a Keepall bag now also white leather. Embossed with the monogram logo in a subtle manner, a soft mixture traditional tailoring empowered with the ease of sportswear like a double-faced cashmere hooded sweatshirt, cargo pant look that followed.  A white sheer jacquard tee-shirt with the LV logo worn with a white cargo pant was one of the ode to the hip hop street look in the early aught. 

The show was neither the formality of luxury nor the roughness of streetwear but embraced a hybrid between the two worlds but executed in a refined manner where the signature prints of streetwear tees now come in colorful embroidered landscape.  The idea of tailoring pervaded throughout with details like hard creases on the back of jackets and pants made for easy folding for travel.  The overall silhouette was not one of oversizing but a mixture of lean proportions like a camel jacket over loose pants or a red fitted single-breasted suit.  While many of the looks either ones that leaned more towards tailoring or those more casual are not new silhouettes in menswear and many were elements of Abloh’s Off-White label. The diverse cast of models who wore them exuded a new attitude for the brand.  In fashion, context matters as much as content.

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Long ago audiences would exit an avant garde fashion show and wonder out loud how are these designers going to bridge the gap between their outrageous ideas and a commercial base merchandise to foster a sustainable enterprise.  Here at the new LV, the message and the product merged successfully.  More importantly, the idea of hybrids carried over to accessories with the white leather vest pocketed multi zippered compartments.  Absent was the deployment of logos as seen at other shows as a new paradigm for coolness, even the monogram was rendered in all white to make the familiar insignia less visible.  And those Skate and Creeper sneakers are sure to provide momentum to expand the critically important and rapidly expanding footwear market. 

Written By Long Nguyen