Virgil Abloh has proved once again that his appointment as artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton is not to be taken lightly. His capsule collection with Nigo, Japanese streetwear pioneer and founder of Human Made and BAPE, is yet another leap towards what seems to be Abloh’s ultimate goal: transcending genres and trends, and thus redefining what it means to be classic.
Bucket hats, crepe-soled suede boots, school uniforms, Canadian tuxedos and classic British military suits are each and all present; the collaboration, named LV², incorporates silhouettes that have defined generations. “It was important for me to create a complete look for this collection, not just an assortment of cool items. But, I feel there’s something in the LV brand that works with the Mod aesthetic—it’s a brand with history, of course, but it’s always had a progressive, modernist outlook to compliment the classic pieces,” Tomoaki Nagao, also known as Nigo, explains of the collection’s instrumental mix of countercultural references, for which he has become known. The designer is no stranger to prestigious collaborations and this is not his first shot with the legendary French house. “The reason Nigo arrived at his premise is that he was a curious Japanese kid in the nineties, and a passionate collector. The only way to satisfy your curiosity back then was to travel. He was going to London, listening to punk, buying records, seeing how Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood had been dressing. He’d come back with the fashion from London and wear it in Tokyo when he was DJing, creating this cross-pollination of fashion and culture. We wanted to tell that story,” recalls Abloh.
LV² keeps the visual trademark from Nigo’s previous work with BAPE, which he left in 2013. The Damier pattern and LV monogram are reminiscent of BAPE’s all-over camouflage. Blue jeans are omnipresent, pants are well-cut and shirts are plain white. The Japanese designer’s signature ice cream logo, once sewn on the pocket of baggy jeans, is now melting on a bag and Mount Fuji is stitched to the back of a black bomber. “I am very conscious of my interpretation of what LV stands for and how it should look. My focus was on the shapes and things from LV’s history that I wanted to reinterpret. Considering his position, it’s logical that Virgil’s role is to change the rules. It’s hard for me to know what is ‘right’ in terms of graphics for LV, but Virgil pushed that and encouraged me,” he explains. Nigo is also the owner of NOWHERE, a small but hugely influential boutique in the Harajuku district of Tokyo that he co-founded with Jun Takahashi in 1993. By interweaving references accumulated over the years, even decades, the designer—who is also the current creative director for Uniqlo’s UT collection—has a uniquely complex understanding of the elements of meaningful style.
Another thing that Abloh and Nigo share is multidisciplinary practices, which, of course, bleed into their fashion work. These two designers/stylists/DJs have circled around each other, and within the same creative circles, for over fifteen years. The collection’s ready-to-wear leather goods, shoes and accessories offer a mature interpretation of many of their mutual inspiration points. “Collaborations start with conversations. We’re not so linear to be like, ‘Oh, we both love streetwear, so let’s do T-shirts and hoodies.’ That’s not where we’re at in 2020. We were interested in the dandy: how London Mods-meet-Tokyo in a reinterpretation in the likeness of Louis Vuitton. It strikes a chord with the essence of the house, which is travel and cross-pollination,” explains Abloh. Without denying each of their particular aesthetics, or the codes that give Louis Vuitton its stature, the collection ensures more than just a one-off (white).