In January, Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear, showcased his second collection inspired by the legacy of the late Michael Jackson. From the diamond-encrusted white gloves given as invitations to the soundtrack, you can clearly see that the King of Pop’s influence touched every aspect of this show.
But not even a few weeks later, the man Abloh praised as “the most important person in innovating men’s wear ever” became the focus of HBO’s latest documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” in which two men alleged that Jackson sexually abused them as children.
As a result, Louis Vuitton and Abloh decided not to produce any of the Michael Jackson-themed pieces from the collection.
“Child safety and welfare is of utmost importance to Louis Vuitton. We are fully committed to advocating this cause,” said Louis Vuitton’s chairman and CEO, Michael Burke.
The collection included direct references to Jackson, including a T-shirt with a graphic of his dancing feet. There were also familiar styling elements, such as statement gloves, loafers worn with thick white socks, loose white button-up shirts, and embellished sashes.
“I honestly don’t think the collection should’ve been pulled because I don’t believe the accuracy of the documentary,” said Florida A&M graduate, Tatiana Jean-Louis.
Louis Vuitton says that the items being held back from stores are ones “that directly features Michael Jackson elements.” But figuring out which pieces those are is more difficult than it sounds.
There are elements of Jackson across the entire collection, from the sparkling sequined jackets that resemble the ones he used to perform in to a red jacket that isn’t too far off from the one featured in the iconic “Thriller” video. A lot of the pieces that went down the runway seemed to take reference from Jackson’s daily wear.
“I feel like keeping the collection wouldn’t have hurt the company, because there’s always going to be people who support him and people against him regardless of what was said in the documentary,” said FAMU graduate Samantha Joseph. “He was found innocent in a court of law, just let him rest in peace.”
Abloh said in a statement to WWD that his “intention for this show was to refer to Michael Jackson as a pop culture artist. It referred only to his public life that we all know and to his legacy that has influenced a whole generation of artists and designers.”
When Jackson was alive, he was an inspiration. People wanted to dance, sing, and as Abloh and Louis Vuitton showed, dress like him. However, after the “Leaving Neverland” documentary, people, radio stations, and companies must figure out a way to deal with Jackson. Louis Vuitton, like any company with ties to Jackson, must deal with this dilemma.
This brings up some hard questions: is it impossible to aspire to be like one part of Jackson without bringing up the rest of his past? And can people separate the art from the man?