One evening in late November, 1,500 of the world’s fashion and art cognoscenti sailed toward an abandoned waterfront stadium on an island in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. They were met by hundreds of Louis Vuitton staff, who were putting the finishing touches on a show that would be one of the most emotional and memorable runway events in recent history.
The spring-summer 2022 presentation marked the first time one of artistic director Virgil Abloh’s men’s wear collections would be shown in the U.S. The grandiose spectacle coincided with Miami’s Art Basel, the opening of Louis Vuitton’s second freestanding men’s-wear store and the debut of new furniture and houseware collaborations.
Forty-eight hours before the festivities were due to start, 41-year-old Abloh died from a rare and aggressive form of heart cancer. While many who had received an invitation assumed the events would be cancelled, the Louis Vuitton team pushed ahead with what became a celebration of a man who inspired not only the fashion world, but music, art, design and popular culture.
Abloh had worked on the show until the end, perfecting details, texting co-workers and adding to the guest list up until 2 a.m. on the morning of his death. It was impossible not to feel his presence in every detail, from the LV branded hot air balloon that hovered overhead to the glowing drones that spelled out the unforgettable sign off, “Virgil Was Here,” in the dusk sky. These were all elements of a coming-of-age narrative that Abloh explored in the collection. “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,” the late designer said in a recording played before the show. “They start to stop using their mind, and they start using their imagination.”
As the sun sank behind the horizon, the stadium was illuminated with a kaleidoscope of lights, mimicking the Technicolor runway looks and dreamy landscapes printed on tailored suits. Each look had an element of child-like amusement, especially in accessories such as oversized hockey gloves, striped knee-high socks paired with cowboy boots and ombré skateboards. Ten extra looks were added to the lineup that had been shown in Paris earlier in the year, including tie-dye puffer coat dresses and a neon green fleece jacket modelled by Abloh’s friend and rapper Kid Cudi. For the finale, Abloh’s tearful studio team took their bow while fireworks lit up the sky.
Located in the heart of Miami’s design district, the Louis Vuitton men’s store creates an experience that rivals any runway show. It is the second standalone flagship for the men’s collection (the first opened in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighbourhood in 2020). Its exterior is wrapped in a modular, white, cut-out façade, created by the studio of Dutch designer Marcel Wanders and inspired by Vuitton’s leather pieces and monogram logo. Inside, a spiralling staircase curves around a giant figure whose upper body can only be seen from a balcony. Wearing a tailored LV suit and oversized shades, the figure’s arms reach out across the boutique’s second level. The space highlights how Abloh’s fantastic vision and the brand’s classic aesthetic fused together during his tenure.
Expanding on its Objet Nomades collection, which looks to travel to inspire new furniture and home items, Louis Vuitton debuted pieces in an immersive desert landscape created by architect and designer Patricia Urquiola in the brand’s Miami women’s-wear store. Items on display included Marcel Wanders’s Petal Chair, an homage to the LV monogram flower. The Campana Brothers unveiled Aguacate Multicolore, a brilliantly hued, avocado-shaped wall hanging, and the Merengue Poof, a leather version of the pillow-like dessert. “It’s exciting when a company finds you the best craftspeople, the best ways,” says Gabriele Chiave of Marcel Wanders. “It stimulates your ideas, stimulates your process because when you design, it’s a partnership”.
New to the Objet Nomades roster of collaborators is award-winning Chinese designer Frank Chou, whose work prioritizes long-lasting, responsible design. “What attracts me is the perfect balance between taste and life, history and dream, craft and modernity in Objet Nomades,” Chou says. A couch and armchair are the collection’s first outdoor furniture pieces and can be customized in waterproof fabric. The curved lines and colours were inspired by terraced fields in Yunnan, China, along with the cavernous shapes of Antelope Canyon in Arizona.