VIRGIL ABLOH FLEXES SOME SIXTH SENSE: Louis Vuitton’s Fall-Winter 2021 Menswear
Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Louis Vuitton
This is Virgil Abloh's sixth collection for Louis Vuitton

Virgil Abloh’s biggest challenge in 2021 is about trusting his gut feeling. After all, the 40-year-old didn’t get to where he is today – artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear, founder of Off-White, unofficial flag bearer of Black culture, a living proof of the American Dream – by forgoing his own discernment of what he considers to be the future of fashion, art, and design. And what has made him a cult figure in contemporary fashion is his ability to un-learn, re-learn, adopt, and adapt. In Chapter III of his show notes for his fall-winter 2021 presentation, which is his sixth menswear collection for Louis Vuitton, Abloh publicises a profound question which is also one of his season’s themes: “Are you a tourist or a purist?” He coined this alternate phrase to being an insider or outsider the moment he finished interviewing for this current role a few years ago, perhaps acknowledging that turning point when he was no longer considered just a cog in the wheel. His reason for bringing up this self-reflective line of questioning is because he hasn’t let his background in architecture and civil engineering become a chip on his shoulder when he joined arguably the most recognisable fashion house in the world. Instead he has thrived on the challenge to expand the already over-expanded universe of the house with a much-needed diverse view on culture, music, dance, sports, and – what might sound like a dirty word to him – streetwear. This sixth collection is perhaps his most poetic and personal, one that was also likely tweaked in lockdown and with a higher level of sensitivity and introspection than his previous efforts. Forged as a social study of sorts, he knows that no fashion house is too rich or too highly ranked to not consider the new normal as the new reality. Here are some takeaways to take note of:

As the entire world came to a standstill in 2020, Abloh spent time questioning what this means for the men’s wardrobe in 2021 and beyond. Enter cushy wool robes that don’t look like you just took a bath but rather borrowed stylistic cues in outwear from Redford and Dean. Feel free to wear these straight from bed to a long-haul flight and then straight to a boardroom meeting – it’s made for this purpose too.

The slogan above is also the one question that’s probably been bugging Abloh for the longest time – thanks to internet trolls – which he has now used as fuel to squelch any self-doubt and expand upon in the fashion context. The “Tourist vs. Purist” debate centres on whether society’s obsession about putting people into brackets hinders an individual’s progress, and whether such manmade brackets/labels disallows one from joining another group that is deemed more exclusive than the other. Abloh has used Louis Vuitton’s leather goods as a canvas to expand on his thesis, creating a slogan as a motif that will incite curiosity and potentially a discourse.  


In making a case study out of ownership of regarding originality, Virgil Abloh makes an example in his use of fabric choices. Tapping on his Ghanaian heritage, he has rendered Kente cloth in tartan. He then expounded in his show notes, “… does that make Kente any less Ghanaian and tartan any less Scottish? Provenance is reality, while ownership is myth: manmade inventions now ripe for re-invention.” A thinker.


Men in pleated skirts? We’re in 2021 so you better believe it. Virgil Abloh isn’t paying lip service when he said that his collection will “open the door for any individual to shape their own identity regardless of gender, sexuality or the colour of their skin.” So if you share stylistic cues with Marc Jacobs, Harry Styles, and Daniel Levy, you know where to look.


Already a strong indication in the spring-summer 2021 womenswear collection by Nicolas Ghesquière, Abloh has continued the green print in his clothing  that might have referenced the venue of the presentation, which was the Tennis Club de Paris. This particular shade of green, however, will have Stan Smith fanboys salivating at the thought and might be a big indication of where Abloh sees colour trends to be in 2021 (which will undoubtedly be supported by his works at Nike and Off-White).


Abloh loves metaphors and this is one that has reappeared constantly in his collection in some form or another, from 3M windbreakers to iridescent backpacks. Now, he has tapped on reflective PVC for ready-to-wear and silver for monogram briefcases. There is a mirror-like quality to these that perhaps paints a bigger picture than just flexing some shine; he might be dropping hints that it’s due time we all take a breather and reflect.


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