Leave it to Virgil Abloh to reimagine the very possibilities of fashion advertising. In his first multi-media campaign as Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, the Off-White designer created three chapters that investigate “ideas of individual perception and evolvement through lenses of inclusivity.” A heady mission indeed.
The campaign launched this month with “Infancy, Childhood and Adolescence.” Shot by exalted Dutch fashion photogs Inez & Vinoodh, key pieces from Spring-Summer 2019 are worn by boys of various ages and ethnicities. We love the weirdly wonderful, colorful tableaux, bathed in poppy and rainbow motifs central to The Wizard of Oz allegories.
The still and moving imagery invites viewers to experience infancy, pre-teen-hood and teenage life set against abstract and dreamlike landscapes. Challenging our perceptions of the expected is something Abloh is certainly known for, while revealing essential human truths. It’s all pretty trippy, in in the best possible way.
Phase two of the campaign (images have not yet been released for two and three), “The Painter’s Studio”, releasing February 1, was shot by Mohamed Bourouissa, using photography to cleverly recast the 1855 oil-on-canvas work by French realist Gustave Courbet. Notably painted the year after Louis Vuitton established his House, the original depicts Courbet working on a painting, flanked to his left by people from all levels of French society, and to his right by members of high society. The campaign imagery’s contemporary spin shows Abloh fitting a look from Spring-Summer 2019 surrounded by members of his team, social circle, and models, each clad in the collection.
Where Courbet’s painting interpreted the different stratas of French society for the eyes of the cultural elite, Virgil Abloh portrays an all-encompassing exchange that defines his vision for Louis Vuitton: diversity, inclusivity, and unity.
The third and final phase of Abloh’s imaginative campaign, “School Teens,” releases March 22nd. Shot by Raimond Wouda, it depicts the formative communication between teenagers in group situations, nodding to the evolution of boys into men. Students dressed in block-color t-shirts evoke the Spring-Summer 2019 Louis Vuitton show, for which Abloh invited 1500 teens wearing similar garments to form the color spectrum of a rainbow.
A modern take on the schuttersstukken of the Dutch Baroque, the images were photographed around schools in Los Angeles, capturing the nuanced interactions between teenagers. There’s the desire to belong, contrasted by the need for individuality. In this third phase, Abloh’s own brand of constant evolution is front and center. The images work to highlight the tensions between uniformity and diversity, identity and wardrobe, that all at that age experience in the schoolyard, and within the larger culture.
To say Abloh’s first Louis Vuitton campaign is intelligent isn’t doing it justice. Rather, it evokes the most visceral essence of growing up, offering an enlightening look back into what it meant, and still means, to be young in this contemporary world.