It smacks of team spirit — and it feels like a whole new way to design a fashion spectacle: Louis Vuitton’s men’s show in Paris on January 19 will feature filmmakers Michel and Olivier Gondry; stylist Ibrahim “Ib” Kamara; visual director Lina Kutsovskaya, a world-famous music star whose name is still being withheld — and KidSuper founder Colm Dillane, who has been secretly embedded in the design studio for the past few months.
“It’s about chemistry,” said Michael Burke, Vuitton’s president and chief executive officer, unveiling the various talents contributing to the upcoming fall 2023 show during Paris Men’s Fashion Week, which runs from Jan. 17-22. “Participants in the collective raise it to a higher level.”
Vuitton has already injected performance elements — dancers, a live orchestra, a marching band and rapper Kendrick Lamar — into the men’s shows it has staged since the death of artistic director Virgil Abloh in November 2021, turning to the prolific and influential designer who left a trove of ideas and concepts.
This time, “there are no specific Virgil influences,” Burke said. “This is from scratch, but its core ethos, its vision, was based on the values we uphold: inclusiveness, authenticity and transparency.”
On the latter point, Burke noted that Vuitton’s multimedia showcases for men elevated the latter value, making Abloh’s inspirations come to life on the catwalk.
“The show has to draw you in and make you a part of it – that’s why [we have] an orchestra, that’s why an orchestra,” explained the CEO in a telephone interview. “This is how engagement is created today. It’s less cerebral; it’s more emotional.”
Although fashion designers often cite musicians, choreographers, athletes and filmmakers as references, “the physical participation is new,” Burke said. “It just makes it more convenient. This makes it more suitable for Instagram. The live performance aspect encourages reactions.…You show your inspiration in a way that’s very interesting.”
The initial impetus for the upcoming exhibit, Burke said, came from him, the communications department and the design studio brainstorming visiting talent, inviting them to meet each other and then “letting them take it to the next level.”
All parties expected the Gondry brothers and Dillane to click based on their shared love of stop-motion animation, a “sunny spirit” and a quirky, sometimes childish aesthetic that’s “very happy and very feisty, but not innocent,” as Burke put it. . “When you think of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and you think of a designer that goes with it, you think of Colm… They didn’t know each other, but I was sure they would get along.”
Asked about the selection of Dillane to participate in the Vuitton men’s studio, Burke described him as an iconoclast and a renowned talent, winner of the Karl Lagerfeld runner-up award at the 2021 LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers. “He is his own person, he has his own vision and he is very, very daring “, Burke enthused.
Asked later this month if the show could be a trial balloon for Dillane to become full-time male creative director, Burke said without hesitation, “I think they’ll tell us on the 19th,” adding, “I think it’s a little early.”
He emphasized that there is no specific time frame for naming Abloh’s successor. Other names frequently mentioned for the fashion job include London-based designers Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner and Samuel Ross, as reported.
Burke emphasized that he did not want to work with the KidSuper founder and described his involvement as “embedded” in the studio.
“We didn’t want to host. We wanted something deeper. We wanted him to be fully immersed in the studio — and let the sparks fly.”
Dillane and his Brooklyn, New York-based collective burst onto the fashion scene in 2020 with a short stop-motion film made using modified Barbie dolls dressed in miniature versions of KidSuper’s streetwear designs.
He worked on co-branded products with Spaghettios, Modelo, Jägermeister and Puma, and he is also collaborating with Tommy Hilfiger brewery for 2024.
His fall 2023 KidSuper show on January 21 promises special appearances by Mike Tyson and three American standup comedians.
On Monday, Dillane marveled at his leap from “a 14-year-old T-shirt designer in Brooklyn” to designing a collection for the world’s biggest luxury brand.
“The Karl Lagerfeld award already felt like I had succeeded. But this whole KidSuper story was surreal,” he told WWD. “What I love about it is that I didn’t skip any steps, I didn’t have any inside connections and here we are. It is a confirmation of hard work, good ideas and a confirmation of Louis Vuitton’s willingness to take risks with someone. I tried to make the most of the opportunity and I hope that shines through in the collection.”
Truth be told, he enjoyed access to “the best craftsmanship in the world.”
“I love their desire to make interesting products and see the speed at which they work,” he explained. “There’s a freedom and risk-taking within the design team that I didn’t expect, and it’s been really fun working with them.”
Despite Vuitton being the largest luxury brand, Dillane said the studio works “with the same mindset, freedom and experimentation as a much smaller brand. I think it allows us to be nimble, to have fun and come up with the best ideas.
“I always had big ideas, but this opportunity allowed me to dream even bigger than ever,” he added.
In an interview with WWD last year, Dillane described his fashion label as a canvas for his artistic creation. “If I draw this, you won’t buy my picture, but you will potentially buy a shirt. And that’s how I got into it,” he said, also describing a process different from other designers. “I love the process of making a video so much and I’m inspired by what a person would wear for a scene.”
To be sure, Vuitton hired some extra hitters to design the set for the fall 2023 show, with the Gondry brothers teaming up with Kutsovskaya for the set design.
Michel Gondry began shooting music videos for Daft Punk, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Björk, Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Kylie Minogue and The White Stripes, eventually applying his whimsical, fantasy-fueled visual style to feature films including The Science of Sleep and “The Green Hornet”.
Gondry often works as a duo with his brother Olivier, and the pair also directed the opening film for the Vuitton show.
Meanwhile, both Kamara and Kutsovskaya are longtime collaborators of Virgil Abloh.
Kamara, a fashion editor respected for his rich visual storytelling, has styled Abloh’s shows for Off-White and Vuitton menswear, in addition to his role as editor-in-chief of Dazed magazine. Last April, he was appointed artistic and visual director of Off-White.
Kutsovskaya, whose resume includes advertising and brand image stints at Sephora and Barneys New York and magazine design at Vogue, Teen Vogue and Nylon, is the founder of Be Good Studios, an American agency that has done creative direction for events and campaigns for the likes of Valentino, Savage X Fenty and Miu Miu, along with Vuitton.
In an interview, Burked said it’s long been the case that successful fashion shows involve a host of creative collaborators, even if only the creative director walks out at the end to take a bow.
“It’s a collaboration of many, many people who share in the success … I think there’s more collaboration going on today than there was in the past, but it’s often under the radar,” he said. “We’re just a little more inclusive and open about it.”
Vuitton’s fashion shows are streamed live on multiple social channels and have huge audiences, with a men’s spinoff show in Aranya, China last September attracting more than 278 million viewers online.
Burke noted that the Vuitton shows that are part of Paris Fashion Week “are not as much about reach as the shows we do in other countries. In Paris, exhibitions are more about creativity, industry and the market. So they shouldn’t achieve the same thing.”
In addition, fairs in Paris compete daily with dozens of other brand presentations, while destination fairs allow a single brand’s voice to shine through.