Miami’s Art Basel is an occasion when the world’s top names in fashion, visual art, and music convene to cross-pollinate and party. In a way, it’s a fitting backdrop to celebrate the life of Virgil Abloh, the self-proclaimed “maker” who died Nov. 28 after a private two-year fight against cardiac angiosarcoma. Abloh’s Nov. 30 show for Louis Vuitton, titled “Virgil Was Here,” was both his seventh show for the French fashion house and his second time presenting the Spring/Summer 2022 collection which debuted over the summer, though this iteration included 10 new looks.
Teasing the show, Vuitton released a two-minute video depicting a young boy bike riding his way through the empty streets of Miami, eventually arriving at a LV-adorned hot air balloon that lifts him into the sky. It’s the same balloon that sat next to the venue for the show, a platform built outside of Miami Marine Stadium, a not-so-subtle reminder of Abloh’s ascension into the ranks of fashion’s creative geniuses gone too soon (Abloh contributed a look to the fashion show honoring the late Alber Elbaz in September). After the runway presentation, fireworks and a drone show ending with the words “Virgil Was Here” left showgoers emotional. “I talked to his wife a couple of days ago and she gave us instructions specifically: no sombre feelings, no cancelling any events,” Abloh’s friend Ibn Jasper told Business Of Fashion. “We’ve got to celebrate him here.”
The show may have been originally planned in tandem with the opening of a new menswear store for the brand, as a way to drive excitement among customers (the majority of attendees were clientele for the brand), but the news of Abloh’s death shifted the energy and intention, transforming the event into a tribute. Louis Vuitton's Chairman and CEO Michael Burke spoke before the show, explaining, "Virgil was not looking for the limelight, but the limelight found him." Many of Abloh’s friends and creative collaborators came to the show in support, including Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, and Silvia Venturini Fendi.
In the days since his passing, an outpouring of both grief and joy has emerged on social media, often centered around not just Abloh’s creative genius, but his kindness and constant support. Abloh often referenced those not in the room as his source of inspiration. “This award, to me, is representative of my emotion as an intern,” he said in 2017 when receiving the shoe of the year award at Footwear News’ Achievement Awards. “That emotion of dreaming of a dream job, showing up and proving you can add ideas to an industry that’s already set in its ways, that always delivers great things.”
In a 42-page packet of show notes, the brand breaks down his inspiration for the Spring/Summer 2022 collection titled “Amen Break,” a nod to the 1969 drum solo from the Winstons, which has since become the most sampled drum break, and which has served as a starting point for thousands of later hip-hop tracks. Reads a page that opens, “Dear Fashion People” this idea is recontextualized in relation to Abloh’s work. “He juxtaposes references in the same way a DJ beat matches two disparate tracks — you find the mutual point where the vibe lines up and switch it up from there, an act of coordination that takes pains — taking practice to look absolutely effortless.”
As a multi-disciplinary creative, Abloh often approached his work in fashion through a lens less informed by the nuances of the trend cycle, and more through his own wandering inspiration and excitement. In a quote included in the notes and attributed to Abloh in July 2020, he says, “Within my practice, I contribute to a Black canon of culture and art and its preservation. This is why, to preserve my own output, I record it at length.”
See more from the show below.