HEAVEN ON EARTH
A Surrealist Playroom for Virgil Abloh’s AW20 Louis Vuitton Runway Show
A child-like curiosity and naivety is hard to keep after one’s formative years, but those able to master this quality are able to produce some of the most creative, original works.
For his fourth Louis Vuitton menswear show, artistic director Virgil Abloh exercised his creativity and seemingly unrestricted freedom at the house, and together with creative teams BeGood Studios and PLAYLAB, INC. created a dream-like stage for the Autumn/Winter 20 collection.
Down-to-earth, yet choosing to keep his head in the clouds, Virgil’s approach to his work for Louis Vuitton has been a breath of fresh air – equally for consumers and for the renowned luxury French fashion house. His approach is much-needed in the industry, and quite the recipe for success in the design-related realms he puts his hand to. Most importantly, Virgil is completely transparent in his creative process, choosing to work with those optimistically-inclined, bringing them along on this fairytale ride with him.
Presented in the Jardin des Tuileries in a purpose-built rectangular set with printed blue sky and white clouds which clustered to spell ‘LV’, guests walked into a surrealist set inside.
The title of the collection and show, ‘Heaven On Earth’ presented what may seem to some as other-worldly, but indeed possible right here on Earth. Again, we have more freedom than we are using. Time is just a concept, and this was hinted at through the show’s physical invites in the form of a wall-size clock running backwards, received by all 1200 show guests.
On one side of the show’s interiors a staircase reminiscent of the final scene and set of The Truman Show led up to a curved doorfront, back-illuminated with a Turrell-like gradient resulting in an Edward Hopper-esque sculpted shadow setting the tone of the show.
On the other side of the set, found positioned in a booth overseeing the entire show was Juan Atkins, the music collaborator for the show. Atkins, a DJ and musician celebrated for birthing techno in Detroit in the 80s, brought his pioneering electro music Cybotron project to the show, creating the soundtrack in real time. The legends presence was unintentionally educating guests about music history in the most subtle way.
Oversized tools – pencil, pencil-sharpener, scissors, paintbrush, hammer, needle and thread – were the main props on the runway show stage, positioned at the centre of the stage with models traversing around each one in tailored suiting carrying the iconic LV hand-held cabin trunk suitcases.
A life-size tree trunk was also centre, presented growing from the floor to through the roof with wooden stairs fixated to it as if leading to a treehouse above. The treehouse was always where creativity could be let loose, to flourish, and here we saw the reverse, the tools presented in the present room, reminding guests to use them, utilise them in the here and now. In Virgil’s Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 20 show he highlighted the same attitude, through a gigantic bouncy castle and inflatable set.
In ‘Heaven On Earth’, models wore silver cyborgian face pieces by Isamaya Ffrench, a stark contrast to the dream-like set. The collection, styled by Christine Centenera, was abundant in ties and tailored suiting. LV show notes stated “the dress codes of an old-world are neutralised, reappropriated, and embraced for a progressive joie de vivre.” A uniform for many, here suits are revised and liberated. Coats with intricately-cut patterns were a head-turner, as were the printed clouds on the suiting.
The set, the electronic music, the model’s face pieces, all seemed to reflect how humanity and technology intersect, with craftsmanship and creativity an inherently human trait that should be celebrated.
In our current society creativity often slowly diminishes as one gets older and takes on new responsibilities, Virgil reminds the greater public “Don’t let your day job define you“.
From a “New Beauty” point of view it may come as no surprise that I‘m thrilled about the perfectly proportioned elegance Virgil has presented in this LV collection. Never shouting, but sovereignly speaking. I think Virgil feels at home in Paris. The setting was actually insane, but not disturbing – just beautiful.
– Pascal Möhlmann, artist
Scale. My favorite part about the truly large fashion houses, and there isn’t much larger than LV, is how truly wholistic they’re approach is able to be. The invite, the shows, the windows, the marketing, and beyond…there is nothing that isn’t included in the story telling. The magic in all of this is that from the day I met Virgil till now, and even more so now maybe, he has thought at massive scale. So he’s 100% able to pull the most out of LV and their platform. It’s truly magic. This is what excites me.
The Heaven On Earth collection is a continuation of him exploring child-like wonder and I personally love how that contrasts against the seriousness that can accompany the big houses. It was magical, beautiful, and complete in its story telling. I loved it. My favorite specific pieces would be the “shattered” suit, the curved bags, and the tiny detail of the ceramic puffy cloud shaped LV logo on one of the belts. Ultimately though, my favorite part was it all coming together in a physical space at the show that put you in an almost dreamlike mental space. It was incredible.
-Benjamin Edgar, designer
Heaven On Earth Louis Vuitton Autumn/Winter 20 show
Photography Karl Hab | Words Monique Kawecki | Quotes Pascal Möhlmann and Benjamin Edgar
Additional imagery c/o Louis Vuitton