Virgil Abloh's Louis Vuitton SS21 Collection Leans Into Upcycled Textiles

Abloh’s menswear collection nods to Sun Ra and celebrates past ideas.

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Held at the port of Shanghai, Louis Vuitton‘s latest Virgil Abloh-directed menswear offering is more concise than previous collections but is brimming with no fewer ideas. Indeed, its Spring/Summer 2021 presentation is rich with progressive flourishes and far-reaching inspirations, channeling the colorful video premiered during Digital Paris Fashion Week.

Abloh is aware of the immense pressure levied upon his menswear output. “For all intents and nuances, I have often spelled out the interceptive reality of myself as a Black man in a French luxury house,” he explained in his seasonal manifesto. “I am well aware of my responsibilities. Rather than preaching about it, I hope to lead by example and unlock the door for future generations. … It’s my desire to imbue the traditional codes of luxury with my own progressive values. Nuance, like sarcasm, can be difficult to understand.”

“Where human feet have never trod, where human eyes have never seen / I’ll build a world of abstract dreams, and wait for you.” Sun Ra states in “I’ll Wait For You (Strange Worlds in My Mind).” Sun Ra’s dreamlike intonation informs SS21’s design ethos, equally imbued with punchy colors and nuanced craft. Disjointed seams weave through hoodies and blazers, M65-inspired jackets are realized in shocking pink and matching sets are realized with cloud patterns that recall Fall/Winter 2020. This isn’t merely a callback, however — it’s actually recycling.

Louis Vuitton’s new upcycling program will everything LV finding new life under Abloh’s purview. “Ideas – the very foundation of fashion – are no longer disposable,” explains a press release, outlining this initiative as Abloh’s “next chapter” at the luxury house. Spring/Summer 2021 garments are pieced together from overstock textiles, previous seasons’ clothing and refurbished ideas. Out of the entire show, only two models wore garments made of new material. 25 others wore clothing that features recycled material and another 25 wore items directly lifted from past shows, celebrating the design team’s favorite creations.

Along with its signature LV Trainers — shown here with crystal embellishment — Louis Vuitton also delivered eyebrow-raising eyewear, patterned soft Trunks (including versions embedded with speakers) and plenty of fur outerwear. Tailoring again plays a big part in the collection but the clean lines are interrupted by vivid plaid patterns, monogrammed puffers and “Zoooom With Friends” plush figures attached to the garments. Also in the mix is a “Homework” capsule comprised of designs that the Louis Vuitton menswear design team dreamed up during quarantine, showcasing individualistic graphic whimsy.

Review looks from the show and watch Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2021 menswear presentation in full above.

As Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection arrives online and in-store, Abloh stays busy with a variety of extracurricular programs.

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