In the absence of Virgil Abloh – and, indeed, any creative director – a figurehead emerged at Louis Vuitton’s SS23 men’s show in Kendrick Lamar, who performed alongside an all-Black marching band. Flanked by Naomi Campbell and Dave Free, the rapper performed live and direct from the front row, which wound around the Louvre’s Cour Carrée like a “yellow brick road for the imagination” – a reference harkening back to Abloh’s Louis Vuitton debut in 2018.
Dubbed Strange Math, the collection was realised by Louis Vuitton’s design team, running the gamut of Abloh-isms, including slouchy, pastel-hued tailoring, infantile briefcase bags, bolshy knitwear, tulle skirts, and exo-skeletal sculptures made from paper planes and boomboxes. But this was no “best of” tribute, rather, it felt like a lionising of Abloh’s tropes into the maison’s own cannon, a comingling of the two histories. After all, this is likely the final collection before a new successor steps in to take the reins, with Martine Rose the current forerunner if the appearance of Louis Vuitton’s CEO at her SS23 show was anything to go by.
With all its scallop-edged tailoring, origami sailor hats, bunny-eared beanies, and neck-tie collars, it was a candied homage, culminating in a slew of monastic, floral-embroidered suiting redolent of Abloh’s Off-White tributes. All of which had been paired with Air Jordans, naturally. Much like Abloh had recast Louis Vuitton in his own dreamlike rendering, the label closed the show with a handful of models running a diaphanous rainbow flag through its “magnified playground”, closing an era of childlike experimentation.