“Leonardo? ” It is barely 8 o’clock at the Cité du cinema, in Saint-Denis, in Seine-Saint-Denis, and, already, the anthill is agitated. “Where’s Leonardo?” Who dresses Leonardo? “ This June 22, we are shooting in the studio what will be the presentation video of Louis Vuitton’s spring-summer 2022 men’s collection. In a large hangar, the models, boys in their twenties delighted to be, of 1.85 meters and more, dress among the clothes rails where a bushy coat hangs here. 101 Dalmatians, there a mint poplin shirt, elsewhere monogrammed jeans and a candy pink sweatshirt, as bleached with blue and green spray, that the famous Leonardo will end up putting on.
A sort of large patchwork, thought around the concept of “Amen Break” – the title of the collection -, one of the most used loops of hip-hop and drum and bass, invented by the group The Winstons in 1969. “As a music lover, I grew up knowing the history of this rhythm so often sampled, relates the artistic director Virgil Abloh. But, over time, I discovered how much it had traveled, taken various forms, fed subcultures. And come to think of it, it seemed to me that he could also be a perfect metaphor for fashion. After all, a T-shirt is a amen break. The person who designed the cut of a T-shirt is sampled endlessly. “
The concept allows someone who is also a DJ after dark to perform what he can do (or the only thing he can do, his detractors will say): mixing. In a psyche and rave spirit, jumpsuits wrapped in organza and jogging bottoms, belted suits like aikido champion, sweatshirts and skirts collide.
” Sorry “, must ask behind the scenes for a model who, in a voluminous crinoline skirt, is learning to make her way. Nearby, a blond boy in a sand shirt, waistcoat and cobalt earring lets his face be made up, his eyes tired – the models have been summoned at dawn. Further on stand ironing boards to tame the slightest folds, mirrors for the hairdressing workshop, tables covered with accessories, a key segment in the luxury leather goods manufacturer Vuitton: micro bags in the shape of carrot or lemon , fish backpack and rigid trunks, tie and dye or bronze handbags, multicolored jewelry and razor blade pendant, reflective glasses, water bottles and hiking sneakers… Color. Lots of neon. “I wanted, beyond the grays, to let myself go to a wealth of exuberant hues”, says Virgil Abloh.
A dojo and a glade
However, he is aware that, on the accessories side, his trump card is the collaboration he draws with the Air Force 1 sneaker from Nike and which we find with the comma of the sportswear giant but Vuitton way: monogrammed, logo, checkered. “Air Force 1 is pretty much the lifeblood of hip-hop. I have worn a lot in the past, collected some of them. We kept the Nike sole but reinterpreting it with the artisanal talent of Vuitton, the best leathers from Italy, gives a result that I find very successful ”, says the artistic director with a smile. “When will it be released?” “, already inquires, with a shining eye, a model who is wearing them while heading towards the stage.
This one, where employees circulate who distribute masks and water bottles, is divided into three sets. They will give, on the screen, three distinct atmospheres: a storefront; a dojo, a Japanese martial arts club drowned in beige; a forest which consists only of bare, thin trunks. “Paul? Philippe? call the speakers. Are you ready ? It turns ! “ It is in this undergrowth where stroboscopic effects give the illusion of a dangerous thunderstorm that the first takes are made, throughout the morning.
First, a man in a black jacket and skirt with the appearance of a mage, the hooded head topped by a cap (a funny assembly omnipresent in the collection) advances, followed by a boy in a suit. They are the two heroes of the video, a father and his son who we guess will have to fight together in the face of hardships on the way. Camera settings, fixed on rails or a crane. Clap. Two takes. Then, to a heady music, join them about twenty models who lean against the tree trunks, while dancers in flared costumes take a few steps and move gracefully. “More mysterious, the models! “, enjoins the director of the set into her microphone, with the authority of a room driver.
Later, the same sequence will be redone with confetti blown as fallen leaves, before moving on to the dojo scenes. A high-end production intended to magnify the 72 silhouettes that play on Virgil Abloh’s gimmicks: suits with wide cuffs, top hats, teddy jackets with badges, XXL rectangular glasses. The whole thing rarely leaves the head bare. Balaclavas eat up faces, embroidered berets cover hair, furry earmuffs and hoods are in full swing. “With the craftsmanship of the workshops, I could make an entire collection just to dress the heads. It is an art that is being lost and I am trying to rehabilitate it in a contemporary way ”, laughs Virgil Abloh who, during the shooting, follows the sequences behind the screen of a combo.
Beyond clothes, video is also an opportunity for him to stage artists he loves, often black: the poet Saul Williams, the rapper GZA, the visual artist Kandis Williams, the young French actor Issa Perica … “I also have this ambition to form a community. ” So many influences that feed the imagination of the man who turns fashion into a hybrid collage, with the same striking energy of a remix that he would tinker behind his turntables.