In October 1953, the American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist James Baldwin published in Harper’s Magazine an essay entitled ‘’Stranger in the Village’’. In it, he detailed his experiences as a Black visitor to a small town in Switzerland that had, he wagers, never seen a Black person before. In 2021, Virgil Abloh – the first Black creative director at Louis Vuitton – used that essay as inspiration for his Fall/Winter 2021 menswear collection for the house.
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The collection was presented in the form of a video that had performance art, spoken word, music and models walking (and ice-skating) through scenes that included a snowy hillside in Switzerland and a modernist marble set inside the Tennis Club de Paris.
Models walked around the sculpture with some laying on the floor, against the wall, or sitting on Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich’s iconic Barcelona Chair, nodding to Abloh’s idealization of the artist, the drifter, the architect, the salesman, and other archetypal characters of society.
In short, the presentations look to examine ‘’the presumptions we make about people based on the way they dress: their cultural background, gender, and sexuality’’.
The collection itself featured a combination of classic design elements and more boundary-pushing ones. Standout pieces from the collection included suiting and the eye-catching accessories one would expect from Louis Vuitton. Outfits read like amped-up versions of familiar silhouettes: a gray suit was transformed with a trompe-l’oeil marble print, while coats were dramatically elongated to trail on the floor. Much of the line was rendered in kelly green, and gender lines blurred with men wearing skirts and tight over-the-elbow leather gloves. There were also trompe-l’oeil constructions, two jackets shaped to look like skylines complete with 3D skyscrapers – one representing Chicago, where Abloh grew up, and a top made of 3D reproductions of the most famous monuments in Paris, where he now resides.
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