There were a lot of things to unpack at the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2023 menswear runway show. As had been typical of the late Virgil Abloh-conceptualised shows for the maison, it was a full-on combination of performance art as well as fashion, complete with a set design that resembled a blown-up toy racetrack that was rendered in a golden hue — a nod to the yellow brick road featured as an element to Abloh’s Louis Vuitton debut in spring/summer 2019.
The spring/summer 2023 menswear show kicked off with a short film entitled Strange Math directed by Ephraim Asili, followed by a drumline performance by The Marching 100, the Florida A&M University’s marching band. And then it was proceeded by a live rap performance by Kendrick Lamar. Seated quite casually right next to Naomi Campbell together with the rest of the runway audience, Lamar performed the entire song live to a track (without missing a beat, of course) with lyrics that were a tribute to Abloh.
It was spectacular in all sense of the word. And there was a palpable sense of joy and celebration.
The thing is, Abloh was revolutionary for Louis Vuitton. There’s no doubt that his imprint on the maison broke cultural and systemic boundaries in ways that were never seen before in the luxury fashion industry. And whether you’re a fan of his work at Louis Vuitton or not, there’s no denying how much clout and relevance he had brought to the men’s division of the maison.
Personally, it does feel somewhat irrelevant for me to review the spring/summer 2023 menswear collection. Not because it was wholly designed by the in-house design team, but because it felt and looked like a tribute collection to the late artistic director.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the collection at all. In fact, I quite honestly enjoyed it as a whole. There were the signature Abloh tropes of exploring different facets of childhood — interpreted quite cleverly and at times, humorously, through the accessories — and beautiful reworkings of Louis Vuitton classics as well as Abloh-initiated designs for the maison.
What especially amazed me was how the in-house design team managed to capture Abloh’s spirit and aesthetics without the man himself directing the end result of the collection. If anything, that’s a true testament to how closely Abloh was working with the team and the amount of respect that they still have for him. And instead of attempting to replicate his design language, it felt genuine as a considered and fitting tribute to the former artistic director’s legacy.
Therein lies a problem and/or challenge for Louis Vuitton: who next to succeed Abloh. Louis Vuitton could very well continue on with a collective of creatives to design the menswear collections from here on out, with nuances of the foundation that Abloh has laid. But such a collection after this particular spring/summer 2023 one could potentially feel self-serving and a disservice to Abloh’s legacy of constantly pushing boundaries.
Whoever is set to take up the challenge will be facing an uphill task in either reinterpreting Abloh’s vision, or completely building a whole new identity for Louis Vuitton men’s from the ground up; the latter will be at the risk of alienating customers that have grown to associate the kind of streetwear-leaning, culturally diverse attitude to the maison.
While there’s still no confirmation yet on who will take up the artistic director role for menswear, one thing’s clear from the Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2023 menswear runway show — that, as Lamar puts it, “Long live, Abloh.”
View the full Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2023 menswear collection in the gallery below.