Virgil Abloh’s debut Louis Vuitton collection makes a case for shorts in menswear

The superstar designer's first collection for Louis Vuitton is a reminder to liberate ourselves from the constraints of predictability and pants.

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
June 26, 2018

Virgil Abloh astonished fashion luminaries and casual spectators alike with his debut as the newly-appointed Artistic Director of perennial French fashion estate Louis Vuitton. A significant moment in fashion for a number of reasons, Abloh’s ability to merge his talents as a frontrunner in streetwear into a legacy house made the “We Are the World” themed collection feel energetic and current but with the tastefulness of a modern classic. By far the hottest and most anticipated show of the season, Abloh used his influence (read: clout) for the greater good — advocating for silhouettes and accessories popular overseas to a North American audience.

My top picks of the collection spoke to an affinity that I deeply advocate for – shorts cut more than an inch above the knee in menswear. Abloh’s collection made me feel so seen right now when millennial dignitary Blondey McCoy sported a monochrome ensemble which paired a bright red field jacket with a pair of blousy printed shorts creating a silhouette that gave the impression of a thoughtful but effortless kind of look – the key to successful summer style.

Between utilitarian accessories void of practicality, blousy pants that are somehow still tailored, and distinct monochromatic outfits, Abloh’s debut as Artistic Director is about hybridity and transformative fashion.

In a menswear reality where even the Bermuda cut has become elusive, to see more than 2 inches above the knee on a runway so popular makes me hopeful that the trend will take off here at home. Even Bella Hadid posted a similar style short and kept that mf thang on her with an orange LV waistbag strapped to her thigh.

The second shorts moment, taken from the stretch of hyper-tailored pure-white looks, pieced together a dress shirt and a banded collar. The crop top of the legs, men’s shortie shorts, too, deserve their hard-earned moment on the runway under the Parisian sun. Is it possible that our North American media culture is so over-saturated with images of the Daisy Duke denim cutoff that men are left isolated by shorts discourse? In this way, Abloh’s first collection is impressive two-fold. Alongside the likes of Oliver Rousteing and Shane Oliver, he’s doing the work to bring representation behind the scenes of the fashion world as the Black artistic director of a major fashion label, while also imagining new horizons and introducing new opportunities for shorts in menswear. Though only five out of 56 looks featured shorts, the exposure is invaluable.

In addition to making moves towards equity in a treacherous shorts landscape, the collection brought vibrancy and sheer textiles to the too often calm and opaque palette of summer menswear. Potentially coming to its climax with the iridescent, translucent duffel that concluded the show, the show’s emphasis on rainbow saturation to classically masculine contours brought a new dimension to sportswear inspired looks, and possibility to monotonous closets. One of the most memorable looks of the show, a sheer white t-shirt stamped with the LV monogram in the center modeled by Steve Lacy, wouldn’t exactly protect you from sunburn, but brings justice to the era of ‘90s R&B music video looks that was phased out by open button-down shirts much too soon. The all-white all-shearling jacket brought on a similar familiarity. A champion of texture and colour, Cam’ron’s influence is unmatched.

The success of Abloh’s first show signals so much more than new silhouettes and trends to take off in the coming months as the collection becomes available. As Amira Rasool at Teen Vogue points out, the true talent of this collection lies in his ability to combine both streetwear and couture sensibilities, creating a collection popular amongst young audiences that legacy fashion houses like Louis Vuitton struggled to attract, while still catering to the predominantly older and white luxury buyers familiar with the brand. This is apparent in the collection’s most notable looks: Louis Vuitton tailoring, united with streetwear’s fondness for hardware and utility – chains, straps, snaps, clasps, belts and small zippered pockets you could barely squeeze your phone into.

Between utilitarian accessories void of practicality, blousy pants that are somehow still tailored, and distinct monochromatic outfits, Abloh’s debut as Artistic Director is about hybridity and transformative fashion, and shows us what happens when we hang up the basketball jersey, the Hawaiian shirt, the straw cowboy hat and the cargo short. There’s a lesson to be gleaned from the collection’s accessibility — though the collection may not be affordable, exactly, the looks put forward are a fresh take on summer menswear and can be easily integrated into your wardrobe.  In a sentence, leave the Sperry’s on the dock and elevate yourself to the yacht.

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