Those of us watching Virgil Abloh’s debut as creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear last summer saw a clear nod to The Wizard of Oz on his prismatic runway. But with the presentation of his second collection for the label on Thursday in Paris, France, he made it clear that he was actually referencing The Wiz. Fall/Winter 2019-2020 was an ode to one of the film’s stars and the highly controversial yet indisputable King of Pop, Michael Jackson—which lucky guests knew as soon as they received Abloh’s invite, printed upon a single bedazzled white glove.
Singer/songwriter Dev Hynes (a.k.a. “Blood Orange”) could at times be heard weaving “Ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa” and other Jackson phrases into songs sung from his perch just above the catwalk, as a graffiti artist worked nearby. On the runway, models wove through a set styled to look like a New York street at night, clearly intended to evoke the set of Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video (all that were missing were step-sensitive lit panels within the faux sidewalk).
And then, there were the clothes, which predominantly included monochromatic, oversized silhouettes. Virgil Abloh may have at times been reluctant to call himself a designer, but with both Off-White and now, Louis Vuitton, he has demonstrated an uncanny knack for knowing what people want to wear. For Fall/Winter 2019-2020, Abloh envisions the Louis Vuitton man as elegant with a streetwear sensibility that confirms late ‘90s-early aughts minimalism is back. Almost every look was tonally layered, and there were an abundance of refreshingly gender-fluid silhouettes (remember the launch of CK One, y’all?).
And, of course, any Louis Vuitton man is always well-accessorized.
But back to those MJ references: while nuanced, aside from the military motifs, strong primary colors, loafered looks and the occasional harness, anyone who loves the film version of The Wiz as much as I do instantly recognized Glinda’s “If You Believe” scene (complete with black baby angels) knitted into a multicolored sweater. And on another look, all of the characters from Sidney Lumet’s 1978 classic were brought back to life and dancing across a sweatshirt I’m admittedly already trying to figure out how to afford.
Then, there were the iconic Michael Jackson oxfords and white socks, captured en pointe and airbrushed onto a black tee (possibly the first time LV has ever featured an airbrushed tee in any collection). It was a subtle hat tip to black culture, as was the faux fur collar of a leather jacket, which paid tribute to Abloh’s Ghanian-American heritage.
And indeed, America was writ large on the latest collection of the French luxury house, as the American flag, another motif in Jackson’s work appeared in muted iterations on coats, scarves, and even unisex pleated skirts. And there was a nod to another American music icon and yin to Jackson’s yang, as a few silky tunic-and-trouser sets worthy of The Purple One strode down the runway.
Even amongst the doubters, Abloh’s second collection for the legacy luxury label was a runaway success—with a healthy dose of fashion-forward nostalgia. And no matter you might feel about Michael Jackson’s legacy, visually, it was a crossover hit.
In short, it was a Thriller.